Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 17 deadline for CRP renewal

WASHINGTON – Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Richard Fordyce reminded producers that the deadline to sign up for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is Friday, Aug. 17, 2018.
“Any agricultural producer that has eligible land should review the benefits of this program,” said Fordyce.  “It removes from production marginal, erodible land and, in doing so, improves water quality, increases wildlife habitat and provides more opportunities for recreational activities, including fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing.”
For this year’s signup, limited priority practices are available for continuous enrollment. They include grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others. View a full list of practices.
FSA will use updated soil rental rates to make annual rental payments, reflecting current values. It will not offer incentive payments as part of the new signup.
USDA will not open a general signup this year, however, a one-year extension will be offered to existing CRP participants with expiring CRP contracts of 14 years or less.
CRP Grasslands
Additionally, FSA established new ranking criteria for CRP grasslands. To guarantee all CRP grasslands offers are treated equally, applicants who previously applied (prior to the current sign-up period) will be asked to reapply using the new ranking criteria.
About CRP
In return for enrolling land in CRP, USDA, through FSA on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), provides participants that remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat with annual rental payments and cost-share assistance. Landowners enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years.
Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers, ranchers and private landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species.
The new changes to CRP do not impact the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a related program offered by CCC and state partners.
Producers wanting to apply for the CRP continuous signup or CRP grasslands should contact their USDA service center. To locate your local FSA office, visit More information on CRP can be found at

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Preparing for Drought: Plans B and C

Posted by Donnie Lunsford, NRCS 
Farming Conservation Technology
Aug 06, 2018 

If there’s any place where a good two-inch rain causes dancing in the streets, it’s in West Texas. In a land that’s usually dry anyway, the past few years of drought have been challenging to say the least.
No one knows this more than Kregg and Diana McKenny, who raise cattle and manage his family farm near Colorado City, Texas. Kregg’s grandparents purchased the farm in 1943. Even then, it was evident that creativity and ingenuity were essential to meet the water needs of the farm’s livestock.
After surviving the drought of the 1950’s and enduring two hard droughts in the past 10 years, developing alternative water sources became critical for Texas rancher Kregg McKenny. Photo Credit: USDA-NRCS
After surviving the drought of the 1950’s and enduring two hard droughts in the past 10 years, developing alternative water sources became critical for Texas rancher Kregg McKenny.
Kregg’s family was very resourceful from the beginning, capturing available rainwater falling from every house on the farm using a cistern. This inventiveness was critical in the 1950’s, when low rainfall and above-average temperatures led to severe droughts across Texas. 
“The water well sustained us through the drought of the 1950’s,” said Kregg. “In the drought of 2009, the well went dry and we had to haul water and ultimately sell all my livestock except for two retired horses. The water came back to my well nine months later when the rains recharged our aquifer, which made me realize I needed a plan B and C.”
In 2011, Kregg drilled another well which was deeper – Plan B – but it wasn’t enough. He went to the local Natural Resources Conservation Service office to discuss water source alternatives and worked with Derrick Fuchs, a rangeland management specialist, to develop a Plan C.
“Our initial plan was to reduce his mesquite canopy through brush management along with installing a rain water catchment utilizing the surface area of his barn and adding storage to increase his water source capabilities,” explained Derrick. “NRCS has a diverse staff, and we were able to use an agricultural engineer to design the gutters and storage facilities. The 3,500-gallon storage tank ended up being filled in three rainfall events and hasn’t gone dry since.” 
Kregg McKenny (left) and Derrick Fuchs (right) discuss Kregg’s grazing plan next to one of his water storage tanks from his rainwater harvesting system.
Kregg McKenny (left) and Derrick Fuchs (right) discuss Kregg’s grazing plan next to one of his water storage tanks from his rainwater harvesting system. 
Kregg cleared mesquite from his property with assistance from USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program. With the mesquite gone, water was freed up to grow forage plants for grazing and helped recharge the aquifer. Kregg also added a water catchment system to harvest rainfall from his barn roof. 
“Working with NRCS was very easy with Derrick getting a plan in place while giving me ideas to think about for the long term,” said Kregg. “After the funding was secured, I was able to implement some of the action items in my conservation plan. Now I am thinking of the next step with my cattle even though I still get leery of stocking too heavily and tend to be more conservative. I don’t ever want to have to de-stock like I did in 2009.”
After clearing mesquite and reestablishing his pastures to native grass, Kregg has focused on sustainability, improving his water distribution and beginning a new grazing management plan. 

A New Approach to Grazing

Kregg’s new grazing plan will allow his cattle to graze the entire pasture over time, with cattle being confined to small pastures and moved regularly. This system is called High Intensity Low Frequency grazing, and will reduce compaction across Kregg’s pastures while providing periods for regrowth between grazing events.
“I look at my management from different facets, including brush control and water distribution, and storage with proper stocking rates and a drought plan in place,” Kregg explained. 
While it is dry in West Texas and the rains are infrequent, alternatives can often be found to secure water for livestock by looking at the past while focusing on a future of sustainability and land stewardship. 
“My step-dad always told me when I was younger to always have two waters sources,” Kregg chuckled. “He sure was right, and now I have three water sources to be able to provide for livestock even during drought situations.” 
Managing natural disasters starts with strong planning.

Learn More

No matter your operation, we are here to help you prepare for natural disasters and recover after disaster strikes.
Visit to learn more. Contact your local USDA service center for one-on-one assistance with developing a management plan for your working land.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Crops and livestock on the same farms, the same fields–why?

Mature cows are grazing pearl millet cover crop in the foreground. Grain sorghum for cash cropping is shown in the background. Photo by Alan Franzluebbers 

New twist brings back traditional farming practice

Traditionally, farms included a variety of grazing animals, pastures, and crops. Mechanization and other factors prompted many farms to adopt more efficient systems. The July 22nd Sustainable, Secure Food blog explains why the traditional approach to variety in agriculture is getting a second look.

Integrated agricultural systems—using farmland for a variety of purposes—made sense for farmers whose distribution was limited to the local area. Alan Franzluebbers, USDA–Agricultural Research Service, Raleigh, NC, says it can make sense again.

“Interest in re-integrating farms to take advantage of the synergies between crops and livestock has increased in the past few decades,” he says. “Farmers can match the energy and nutrient flows of different enterprises (i.e. types of livestock and types of crops) to meet the desired outcomes.”

Integrated systems have several benefits:
• Using nutrient-rich animal manures can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.
• Forage and grazing land can improve soil health by returning carbon and, in the case of forage legumes, valued nitrogen to the soil.
• Pastures can moderate the effects of drought and flood, due to their deeper roots and variety of plants in them.
• Crops grown in rotation with forages can be more profitable, with a lower fertilizer cost.
• The diversity of income reduces the overall financial risk to the grower.
“Diverse agricultural systems that include livestock, perennial grasses and legumes, and a wide variety of annual forages offer enhanced agro-ecosystem resilience in the face of uncertain climate and market conditions,” Franzluebbers says.

To read the complete blog, visit Sustainable, Secure Food at

American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America: Our members are researchers and trained, certified, professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. Our scientists work at universities, government research facilities and private businesses across the United States and the world.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Nearly $2 Billion Now Available for Eligible Producers Affected by 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Signup begins July 16, 2018, and continues through November 16, 2018.
“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”
Additional payments will be issued, if funds remain available, later in the year.
The program, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) was authorized by Congress earlier this year by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Eligible crops, trees, bushes, or vines, located in a county declared in a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or Secretarial Disaster Designation as a primary county are eligible for assistance if the producer suffered a loss as a result of a 2017 hurricane. Also, losses located in a county not designated as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a hurricane or wildfire in 2017. A list of counties that received qualifying hurricane declarations and designations is available at Eligibility is determined by Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.
Agricultural production losses due to conditions caused by last year’s wildfires and hurricanes, including excessive rain, high winds, flooding, mudslides, fire, and heavy smoke, could qualify for assistance through the program. Typically, 2017 WHIP is only designed to provide assistance for production losses, however, if quality was taken into consideration under the insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy, where production was further adjusted, the adjusted production will be used in calculating assistance under this program.
Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or NAP coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. A list of crops covered by crop insurance is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Actuarial Information Browser at
Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of insurance coverage elected by the producer. A WHIP factor will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP factor.
The 2017 WHIP payment factor ranges from 65 percent to 95 percent, depending upon the level of crop insurance coverage or NAP coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive 65 percent of the expected value of the crop. Insured producers will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent of expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95-percent coverage.
Each eligible producer requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a payment limitation of either $125,000 or $900,000, depending upon their average adjusted gross income, which will be verified. The payment limit is $125,000 if less than 75 percent of the person or legal entity’s average adjusted gross income is average adjusted gross farm income. The payment limit is $900,000, if 75 percent or more of the average adjusted gross income of the person or legal entity is average adjusted gross farm income.
Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for 2017 WHIP. However, all producers receiving 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance and/or NAP, at the 60 percent coverage level or higher, for the next two available crop years to meet statutory requirements. Producers who fail to purchase crop insurance for the next two applicable years will be required to pay back the 2017 WHIP payment.
To help expedite payments, a producer who does not have records established at the local USDA service center are encouraged to do so early in the process. To establish a record for a farm, a producer needs:
  • Proof of identity: driver’s license and Social Security number/card;
  • Copy of recorder deed, survey plat, rental, or lease agreement of the land. A producer does not have to own property to participate in FSA programs;
  • Corporation, estate, or trust documents, if applicable
Once signup begins, a producer will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records. If a producer is unable to provide production records, USDA will calculate the yield based on the county average yield. A producer with this information on file does not need to provide the information again.
For more information on FSA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA service center or visit

Monday, July 9, 2018

Save farms and ranches to save the planet, says American Farmland Trust

Washington, DC – — Today, American Farmland Trust joins other major agriculture and conservation organizations at a “Learning Lab” for the U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Initiative. A team of over 50 technical experts from government, academia and industry will provide technical assistance to state governments on how to draw down carbon from the air and sequester it in the soil across diverse systems such as farms, rangelands, forests and wetlands. The lab also will help states develop strategies related to policy development and funding projects.

American Farmland Trust is working in partnership with Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG), American Forests, the Forest-Climate Working Group, The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute, and The Trust for Public Land to support the Natural and Working Lands Initiative. 

Governors from the U.S. Climate Alliance member states will be attending the Global Climate Action Summit in September, when thousands of global leaders will convene in San Francisco to strategize about accelerating and scaling up emissions reductions. The U.S. Climate Alliance will provide an update on 2018 initiatives, including the Natural and Working Lands Initiative, at the Summit.

“Only by sequestering carbon on natural and working ag lands can we achieve the goal of drawing down the carbon needed to help reverse climate change,” said Jimmy Daukas, AFT senior program officer. “But we are losing three acres of farmland in the United States every minute. It is critical that we protect the best land for food production – and that we improve the health of our soil nationwide so that it sequesters more carbon. AFT has developed proven strategies for achieving both goals.” 

AFT launched its climate initiative, “Farmers Combating Climate Change,” in 2017. The goals of the program are to:

Protect farmland and promote smart growth to significantly reduce emissions
Improve soil health to reverse climate change and improve productivity
Build support among the farm community and advance policies

“The loss of agricultural capacity – in acres of land and inches of soil – is unsustainable and will contribute to the devasting impacts of climate change,” Daukas said. “The U.S. Climate Alliance Natural and Working Lands Initiative is an important and urgently needed effort in the march to stem this loss.”


American Farmland Trust is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. AFT’s innovative work led to a national a movement to save the land that sustains us. No Farms, No Food.  Since 1980, American Farmland Trust has helped to permanently protect more than six and one half million acres of farmland and ranchland and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more. Learn more at

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Why FAMACHA© Score?

A program of the National Center for Appropriate Technology 1-800-346-9140

The Barber Pole Worm is present throughout the United States and represents the
greatest single intestinal parasite threat to small ruminants. In the arid West, irrigated
pastures are breeding grounds for the Barber Pole. The Barber Pole Worm sucks
blood from the abomasum in the ewe, ram, or lamb, causing it to become anemic.
This anemic condition can be noted in mucosal tissue, especially the lower eyelid.
FAMACHA scoring quantifi es the anemic condition, making it easy for producers to
diagnose and treat only the infected animals, creating benefi cial outcomes. Initially,
FAMACHA should be used in conjunction with a Fecal Egg Count (ask your veterinarian)
to ascertain the species of worm involved. However, if you have anemia, you
most likely have the Barber Pole Worm. Lambs and lactating ewes under stress are
most susceptible. Be especially watchful for the health of weaned lambs!

Use FAMACHA to Create Parasite Refugia
Unrestrained use of dewormers has caused Barber Pole Worm to develop
resistance to all three classes of dewormers: Benzamidizoles, Ivermectins,
and Levamizoles.
FAMACHA fi rst!! Then get out the dewormer and treat only the sheep that are
infected. This creates refugia, diluting the parasite genetic pool. If you only deworm those sheep that are exhibiting the symptoms
of the infection and leave the others alone, both resistant and non-resistant worms can interbreed.
Conversely, if you deworm all sheep, the only worms left to interbreed with each other are the real bad guys. You then create a
population of the super worm, which is soon completely resistant to the dewormer.

How to Create Refugia Using FAMACHA
Treat sheep with a FAMACHA score of 3, 4, or 5. Leave the others alone. Typically, you will treat 20 to 30% of the fl ock, which
harbors 80% of the infection.
Never turn treated animals into a clean pasture by themselves.
Enter all animals scored into fl ock records for future reference and management.
Score animals as needed. Every two weeks during the parasite season is recommended if you have less than 10% of the fl ock score
4 or 5. It may be necessary to FAMACHA score weekly in periods of high infestation if more than 10% of the fl ock scores 4 or 5.
Remember, once you take sheep off of pasture, there is a lag period of approximately one month in which they may still become
anemic. Don’t forget to keep monitoring. Consider suspending monitoring when you only have 2% of the fl ock scoring 3, 4, or 5.

The Practical Advantages of FAMACHA Scoring
Creating refugia increases the eff ective life of a dewormer.
Because 70 to 80% of the infection typically resides in 20 to 30% of the fl ock, you will use much less dewormer.
It will take you less time to deworm your sheep.
With good facilities and some practice, two people (one scoring, one drenching) can score and deworm 125 to 150 sheep per hour.
If you FAMACHA score regularly, you will be able to identify infected individuals early, reducing production losses.
Indirectly, FAMACHA scoring can tell you if your dewormer is working. Treated sheep should show improvement in FAMACHA
score within seven to 10 days after deworming. Use a Fecal Egg Count Reduction Test
FSA-9608.pdf or DrenchRite® Assay to confi rm any suspicions of dewormer resisitance.
FAMACHA scoring can be an early warning alert of signifi cant Barber Pole Worm loads on your pastures. A large uptick in
FAMACHA 3 and 4 scores should initiate appropriate measures to mitigate the threat.
– Graze to control (see the ATTRA tipsheet, Barber Pole Worm: Graze to Control).
– Remove from pastures to feed stored feed, such as hay that is adequate in protein.
– Move to dryland pastures, if available.
– Graze fi elds that have been previously hayed.
Integrated Parasite Management: Train the Trainer Project
Other Excellent Uses of FAMACHA Scoring
Selecting ewe-lamb replacements. Choose ewe lambs that score 1 and 2 throughout the pasture season.
Selecting cull ewes. The economic value of any chronic 3- or 4-score ewe should be questioned. Remember, not only do they
lessen the fl ock’s genetic resistance to the Barber Pole Worm, they are shedding millions of eggs onto your pasture. Do you need that?
Selecting rams from your own fl ock or those that are bought. Select rams from 1- and 2-score dams and those that demonstrate
1 and 2 scores on your pasture.
Screening for DrenchRite Assay testing. It has been our experience in 2017 Montana State University fi eld research (unpublished)
that in order to meet the DrenchRite Assay requirement of 500 eggs per gram, fecal samples must usually be taken
from sheep that FAMACHA score 3 or 4. It is preferable to have at least one-third of the samples from 4-score animals.
Imported sheep—inspect them before buying or, if already purchased, while in a two-week quarantine. Remember, when you
buy sheep, you are also buying the parasites they harbor and the deworming regimen that they have been subjected to.
Ask fi rst. Don’t buy resistance!
See if you need to deworm at all.
– Less than 45 days on pasture – you may not need to deworm—no infection yet.
During the parasite season, whenever you have your hands on a ewe or lamb, FAMACHA score it. Make that second nature.
It will give you a mental picture of the Barber Pole Worm status in your fl ock.
Sheep are not like cows. They have a high pain threshold and don’t show the fi rst signs of illness except by their behavior. Any
sheep who does not have her eyes and ears directed to the shepherd is sick. FAMACHA score any sick animal. On rainfall or
irrigated pastures, the two greatest causes of sick sheep are parasites and pneumonia. An animal can be suff ering from parasites,
pneumonia, or both. Often, parasitic infection weakens the animal, predisposing it to pneumonia, or vice versa. It’s easy to
learn how to use a FAMACHA card, a thermometer, and a stethoscope. You can be your own vet 80% of the time. Want to know
what a healthy lung and a pneumonia lung sound like? Check this:

Where Can I Learn How to FAMACHA Score?
Attend one of the Integrated Parasite Management workshops in Montana, Wyoming, or Utah in 2018 and 2019. Contact
Dave Scott at 406-533-6642, or visit
See the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control website at
Complete the online FAMACHA Course off ered by the University of Rhode Island at

Related ATTRA Resources
Don’t Let the Barber Pole Worm Devastate Your Flock,
FAMACHA Scoring Out West,
Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats,
Managing Internal Parasites: Success Stories,
Tips for Preventing Internal Parasites,
Tips for Treating Internal Parasites,
Tips for Managing Internal Parasites,
Tipsheet: Organic Management of Internal and External Livestock Parasites,
Tools for Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats: Animal Selection,
Tools for Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats: Pasture Management,

Other Resources
American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control
Why FAMACHA© Score?
By Dave Scott, NCAT Agriculture Specialist • Published June 2018. ©NCAT
IP562 • Slot 590
Produced by the National Center for Appropriate Technology
(parent organization to the ATTRA Project, • 1-800-ASK-NCAT
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, under award number 2016-38640-25383 through the Western Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education program under subaward number EW 17-011. USDA is an equal
opportunity employer and service provider.
Any opinions, fi ndings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily refl ect the view
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Contact Us! attra.ncat org Toll-free: 1-800-346-9140 Email:

Monday, July 2, 2018

American Farmland Trust's 10th Annual Farmers Market Celebration

Washington, D.C., July 2, 2018 – Today, American Farmland Trust announces the launch of its tenth annual Farmers Market Celebration, set to run through September 21. The Celebration is a national effort to promote the importance of family farmers and farmers’ markets, while also raising awareness about the loss of America's farmland.

There is no better way to nourish ourselves and celebrate the people that nourish our communities than by supporting your local farmers market. That’s why for our tenth summer, AFT’s Farmers Market Celebration encourages market shoppers, family farmers, community activists, and anyone who believes in the power of local food to endorse their favorite market in four categories: 

Focus on Farmers
Healthy Food for All
Pillar of the Community
Champion for the Environment

At the end of the Celebration, AFT will present awards to the top markets in each of the four categories above. AFT will also recognize a "People's Choice" winner and the top three most recommended markets in each state. 

All summer long, farmers and shoppers are encouraged to use the hashtag #OnMyFork to show off the best of what their market has to offer and to highlight the importance of our food choices in supporting family farmers. We want to showcase the markets that make your community proud, so join the conversation and share your story with AFT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Local food and local food producers are the foundation of local economies and communities. Farmers and consumers both benefit.  Studies show that producers that participate in farmers markets have a 10% greater chance of staying in business, and people who shop at the local markets save 25% a year in food costs. 

To endorse your favorite farmers market, visit The Celebration began June 21, 2018 at noon EST and closes on September 21, 2018 at midnight EST. 


American Farmland Trust is the only national conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. AFT’s innovative work led to a national a movement to save the land that sustains us. No Farms, No Food.  Since 1980, American Farmland Trust has helped to permanently protect more than six and one half million acres of farmland and ranchland and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more. Learn more at

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

'Armed to Farm' veteran training planned in Arkansas

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is now accepting applications from military veterans who want to attend our week-long Armed to Farm (ATF) training in Fayetteville, Arkansas. ATF allows veterans and their spouses to experience sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises and explore agriculture as a viable career. 

About Armed to Farm

ATF’s engaging blend of farm tours, hands-on experience, and interactive classroom instruction gives participants a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farm. Participants learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. In addition, attendees gain a network of supportive farmer-veterans and agricultural advisors.
NCAT Sustainable Agriculture specialists will teach the training sessions. Additional contributors will include staff from USDA agencies, plus experienced crop and livestock producers.
Applications are available at and are due by August 10.
All military veterans, as well as their spouses or farm partners, are welcome to apply. However, the number of participants will be limited. NCAT will notify selected participants by August 17. 

Dates, Location, and Cost

Armed to Farm will take place October 1-5, 2018, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.Participants will attend classroom sessions at the Mt. Sequoyah Center, a retreat and event center located in the heart of Fayetteville. Several local farms will provide hands-on learning experiences.
The event is free for those chosen to attend; lodging at the retreat center, transportation to local farms, and most meals will be provided. Participants must pay their own travel costs to and from the event.


Armed to Farm is sponsored by NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program and a grant from the USDA Small and Medium-sized Farm program.


Please contact Margo Hale at or 479-442-9824.
About NCAT
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.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Seminar looks at converting cattle dairies to meat goats

Goat Rancher columnist Dr. Frank Pinkerton will be one of the featured speakers at the Family Day on the Farm to be held Saturday, June 30, at the Harvey Zimmerman Farm in Pembroke, Ky. Pinkerton will be addressing a gathering of Kentucky dairy cattle producers who are finding it hard to compete in today’s mega-dairy environment. Adding meat goats to their operations could be an option for increasing profitability, Pinkerton said.
“Our goal is to offer dairy cattle owners selected meat goat management and marketing information to better inform them about the opportunities and constraints for making this change,” he said.
He will be joined by Dr. Ken Andries of Kentucky State University and Dr. Ken McMillin of Louisiana State University.
A variety of concurrent workshops and seminars will be held throughout the day. Other topics to be addressed are Beekeeping, cheesemaking, horse nutrition, human health and nutrition, produce marketing, financial help for young farmers, accident prevention and a children’s tent with fun activities.
The goat session schedule of events:

9:45/10:30: Dr. Frank Pinkerton: Meat Goat Industry Update (meat goat supply, demand; international competition, and the insatiable need for more domestic goats and goat meat).

10:30/11:15: Dr. Kenneth Andries: Goat Breeds (origin, characteristics, prices, availability; performance testing for genetic quality and profitability).

11:15/12:00: Dr. Ken McMillin: Goat marketing, farm to table (channels, carcass fabrication and characteristics, retailing practices and prices).

1:00/1:30: Dr. Ken Andries: Meat goat production systems, rotational grazing, economic returns.

1:30/2:20: Dr Frank Pinkerton: Dairy goat production systems, grazing vs confinement; cheesemaking and retailing goat milk.

2:20/3:20: Dr. Frank Pinkerton: Confinement meat goat systems (production, facilities, marketing, economic returns; sources of startup stock & hauling costsS).

3:20/4:30: Speakers and listeners for smaller groups for further discussion of topics of greatest industry.

For more information:

Ken Andries
Assistant Professor, Animal Science
Kentucky State University
CEB 105/113
Office: 502-597-5094
Cell: 502-229-8719

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The 100th Meridian, Where the Great Plains Begin, May Be Shifting

Warming Climate May Be Moving Western Aridity Eastward

BY |APRIL 11, 2018
In 1878, the American geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell drew an invisible line in the dirt—a very long line. It was the 100th meridian west, the longitude he identified as the boundary between the humid eastern United States and the arid Western plains. Running south to north, the meridian cuts northward through the eastern states of Mexico, and on to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and the Canadian province of Manitoba on its way to the pole. Powell, best known for exploring the Grand Canyon and other parts of the West, was wary of large-scale settlement in that often harsh region, and tried convincing Congress to lay out water and land-management districts crossing state lines to deal with environmental constraints. Western political leaders hated the idea—they feared this might limit development, and their own power—and it never went anywhere. It was not the first time that politicians would ignore the advice of scientists.
Now, 140 years later, scientists are looking again at the 100th meridian. In two just-published papers, they examine how it has played out in history so far, and what the future may hold. They confirm that the divide has turned out to be very real, as reflected by population and agriculture on opposite sides. They say also that the line appears to be slowly moving eastward, due to climate change. They say it will almost certainly continue shifting in coming decades, expanding the arid climate of the western plains into what we think of as the Midwest. The implications for farming and other pursuits could be huge.
The 100th meridian west (solid line) has long been considered the divide between the relatively moist eastern United States, and the more arid West. Climate change may already have started shifting the divide eastward (dotted line).
One can literally step over the meridian line on foot, but the boundary it represents is more gradual. In 1890, Powell wrote, “Passing from east to west across this belt a wonderful transformation is observed. On the east a luxuriant growth of grass is seen, and the gaudy flowers of the order Compositae make the prairie landscape beautiful. Passing westward, species after species of luxuriant grass and brilliant flowering plants disappear; the ground gradually becomes naked, with bunch grasses here and there; now and then a thorny cactus is seen, and the yucca plant thrusts out its sharp bayonets.” Today, his description would only partly apply; the “luxuriant grass” of the eastern prairie was long ago plowed under for corn, wheat and other crops, leaving only scraps of the original landscape. The scrubby growth of the thinly populated far western plains remains more intact.
“Powell talked eloquently about the 100th meridian, and this concept of a boundary line has stayed with us down to the current day,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the two papers.  “We wanted to ask whether there really is such a divide, and whether it’s influenced human settlement.” He calls the studies an example of “psychogeography”—the examination of how environment affects human decisions. The papers appear in the current edition of the journal Earth Interactions.
While the climate divide is not a literal line, it is about the closest thing around, easily seen on maps. Due to global-scale wind patterns, to the west of this longitude, rainfall drops off sharply. East of the line, it picks up sharply. Powell noted correctly that the western plains are dry in part because they lie in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, which rake off almost all the moisture blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. Seager’s team identifies two other factors. In winter, Atlantic storms bring plenty of moisture into the eastern plains and Southeast, but don’t make it far enough to moisten the western plains. In summer, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico moves northward, but that also curves eastward, again providing the East with plenty of precipitation, while the West gets cheated. Seager says there is only one other such major straight-line climate divide on the global map: the one separating the Sahara Desert from the rest of Africa, also due to cutoffs of prevailing oceanic winds.
In the United States, the effects show up in obvious ways. To the west, population density drops sharply. There are fewer homes, commercial facilities and roads. Farms are fewer, but bigger, reflecting the economics of less water and thus lower productivity. To the east, 70 percent of the crop is moisture-loving corn; to the west, aridity-resistant wheat is dominant.
With the camera looking west, horses graze about 300 miles east of the 100th meridian. This area could become dryer if current projections of climate play out. (Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
Now, the researchers say, warming climate appears to be pushing the divide east. In the northern plains, rainfall has not changed much, but temperatures are going up, increasing evaporation from the soil. Further south, concurrent shifts in wind patterns are in fact causing less rain to fall. Either way, this tends to push western aridity eastward. Data collected since about 1980 suggests that the statistical divide between humid and arid has now shifted closer to the 98th meridian, some 140 miles east. (In Texas, this would move it roughly from Abilene to Fort Worth.) Seager says year-to-year weather variations may blur the data, and in any case the changes are still too small and gradual to yet affect land use over wide areas. But he is confident that aridity will perceptibly move eastward during the 21st century, and eventually effect large-scale changes.
Seager predicts that as drying progresses, farms further and further east will have to consolidate and become larger in order to remain viable. Unless farmers turn to irrigation or otherwise adapt, they will have to turn from corn to wheat or some other more suitable crop. Large expanses of cropland may fail altogether, and have to be converted to western-style grazing range. Water supplies could become a problem for urban areas.
Some historians say it could be argued that white settlement beyond the meridian influenced everything from the end of slavery (plantations could not expand beyond the line, weakening the South) to the development of modern firearms (settlers with single-shot muskets couldn’t compete with native peoples’ rapid-fire arrow attacks, until they became the first, best customers for new Colt repeating revolvers and rifles). The meridian itself is still registered in the popular imagination by historical roadside signs, books such Wallace Stegner’s “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian”, and the Canadian rock hit “At the Hundredth Meridian.” “It’s a reminder that climate really matters, then as it does today,” said Seager.
The other authors of the study are Nathan Lis of Pennsylvania State University; Jamie Feldman of Columbia Engineering; and Mingfang Tang, Park Williams, Jennifer Nakamura, Haibo Liu and Naomi Henderson, all of Lamont-Doherty.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Videos from Miss. State small ruminant workshop available for viewing

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State University Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station presented an informative management and marketing workshop on March 17. Workshop speakers include local producers and researchers from across the Southeast.

The videos of those presentation have been loaded onto the Internet and now are available for viewing at

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