Hey farmers. The NRCS and FAO are urging you to adopt soil conservation practices like no-till on this World Soil Day.
Here’s a message from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on how important healthy soil is and how using conservation practices like no-till can help farmers take better care of their land.
When soil is heavily tilled, the stalks from the previous crop are chopped, and the top several inches of soil structure are disturbed. Conventional thought suggests this fluffing action allows for better seed placement, but Ray Archuleta, NRCS conservation agronomist, said that no-till systems, especially when combined with cover crops, are better – and lead to healthier, more drought-resistant soil.
Archuleta, who works at the agency’s East National Technology Center in Greensboro, N.C., said no-till has significant financial benefits for producers, too.
“No-tillage can save thousands of dollars every year in fuel, labor and equipment maintenance,” Archuleta said. “The key is to let the soil organisms do the work.”
Here’s a message from the FAO and the Global Soil Partnership.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit Silver Ridge Farm on Thursday, Dec. 5th to announce the release of a new report that outlines the impact of voluntary incentive-based conservation practices across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Conservation Effects Assessment Project report demonstrates the need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that will invest in conservation partnerships with our nation’s famers, ranchers and landowners.
Silver Ridge Farm, located in Fredericksburg, VA, is a multigenerational family farm that, like many farms in the Bay Watershed area works with the USDA to implement a wide range of conservation measures.
The Farm Bill is still up in the air on Capitol Hill, and that’s why the folks at Farm Foundation have set up another of their free forums not too far from where Congress will be discussing the legislation’s future. In this next forum on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the National Press Club in downtown Washington, D.C., the group has invited a host of experts to talk about the future of federal conservation programs and what those programs mean to land owners and conservation work on the land.
Moderating the panel will be former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Five panelists will present perspectives on the legislation:
Bruce Knight of Strategic Conservation Solutions and former Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, will provide an overview of federal conservation policies and the role of federal programs in conservation work.
Eric Lindstrom, who works on wetlands and water conservation at Ducks Unlimited, will discuss that organizations’ migratory bird program, including the federal duck stamp program.
North Dakota farmer Don Bauman will explain the role of conservation in his farming operation.
Marcus Maier of the Indian Creek Watershed Project, will discuss the role of federal programs in this farmer-led project.
To sign up, click here. Also, if you can’t make it to the event, the audio will be archived on the Farm Foundation website.
Five State Ag Directors took part in a panel discussion with farm broadcasters Friday in Kansas City at the 70th Annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention.
California Secretary Karen Ross, Kansas Secretary Dale Rodman, Louisiana Commissioner Michael Strain, Nebraska Director Greg Ibach and North Dakota Commissioner Doug Goehring spent about an hour and a half discussing the differing issues that each of their states are facing and how they are working to combat individual challenges. In addition to what challenges they face together and how they are teaming up to solve them.
Host of AgriTalk, Mike Adams, moderated the discussion. Listen to or download all the comments of these state directors here: State Ag Directors Panel Discussion
2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album
USDA Rural Development was on hand during last week’s NAFB Trade Talk to share their work with rural communities across the United States and promote the use of #MyFarmBill.
I spoke with Colleen Callahan, Illinois State Director for Rural Development, during the event and she was eager to express their commitment to rural communities and their passion for brining value to agricultural businesses who drive the growth of those rural communities through their financial and loan programs.
“When it comes to the breadth of what USDA does, we at Rural Development feel that we are the jewel in the crown of USDA because it’s not just about any one program or any one business. It’s about entire communities and regions.”
During the Secretary of Agriculture’s press conference at NAFB, Vilsack gave credit to Colleen for her committed work with the National Drought Resiliency partnership. USDA, along with numerous other government organizations have teamed up in effort to become better prepared to mitigate the consequences of future droughts. You can find the complete audio from the press conference here.
You can’t talk with anyone from USDA without bringing up the Farm Bill. Colleen talked about the power of strength in numbers and their promotion of #MyFarmBill. The use of the hashtag will allow us all to express our opinions and share our agriculture story to the decision makers. As one it’s hard to make a stand, but together we can share our words, photos and video using #MyFarmBill to be heard. Colleen also reminds us that this is more than simply a farm bill, it is a food bill. It is about producing food for exports and putting wholesome food on the tables in homes across the country.
“In agriculture during this time of year we use a lot of technology. We use that GPS, we know where we are in the field, what the yield is in that very spot. We use the no-steer guidance to get use where we are at that point in the field and so using that technology helps us with social media. The #MyFarmBill really completes that circle. You’re at the end of the field, you’re unloading, it goes from the augur to the grain cart and you are sitting there watching. Take advantage of the time you have to communicate the business you are in.”
Listen to my complete interview with Colleen here: Interview with Colleen Callahan
Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album
The farm bill is coming closer to becoming reality, as Congress is about to start the legislation’s Conference Committee. Our friends at Farm Foundation will take a look at how work is progressing on the bill and how the outcome may effect the nation’s food and agriculture system during its next free forum, Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.
The Forum panel: Moderating the panel will be former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm. Five panelists will present perspectives on the legislation:
Joe Outlaw of Texas A&M University, will give an overview of farm bill policies.
Michael Dimock of Roots of Change, will address the impact of legislation on food systems and consumers.
Helen Jensen, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University, will examine issues surrounding the nutrition title of the legislation.
Jon Scholl of the University of Illinois and former president of American Farmland Trust, will discuss conservation programs.
Kip Tom of Tom Farms, will provide a producer perspective.
To participate in this free forum, sign up here.
As Congress and the President wrestle over the budget and whether or not it should be tied to the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” not only has the government shut down, but farm programs have come to a halt as the one-year extension of the last Farm Bill expired on Oct. 1. And that has meant some key conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, are not taking any new sign-ups.
While about 90 percent of the country, including probably a similar number of farmers and ranchers, is frustrated with Congress, the American Farm Bureau Federation is heaping scorn on all sides for not even moving the new farm bill to the conference process and issued this statement from AFBF President Bob Stallman.
“Farm Bureau members are deeply concerned over the political challenges that are making it next to impossible for Congress to reach a compromise on important legislation, while restoring fiscal order and setting a responsible course to get the federal budget back on track. Adding to our frustration, both the House and Senate versions of the farm bill would provide significant savings that could be applied toward reducing the federal deficit.
“Now that the 2008 farm bill extension has expired, farmers once again are left with uncertainty as to the safety net and risk management tools that are important in planning for next year’s crop. And come January, consumers once again face the impact of high food costs as decades-old farm policy kicks in.
“Both the House and Senate agriculture committees have worked hard to put together bipartisan packages that would deliver solid safety net options and comprehensive risk management tools for farmers and ranchers. It is past time for Congress to let these two committees get back to what they do best – work together in a bipartisan fashion to forge the best new farm bill possible in today’s tough political environment.”
Stallman encouraged Congress and Obama to start working together to fix the Nation’s budget and get a new farm bill, including its conservation provisions, approved.
At the Farm Progress Show last week, Governor Pat Quinn announced the start of a three-year demonstration project by the Illinois Department of Agriculture to encourage the planting of environmentally-beneficial cover crops. The initiative’s goal is to improve water quality in Illinois lakes and streams by reducing soil erosion and nutrient run-off from farm fields.
“Illinois is a leading agricultural state because of its ability to adopt sustainable farming practices that protect our valuable soil and water resources without sacrificing productivity,” Governor Quinn said. “This project is a good example of the industry’s commitment to our environment.”
Beginning this fall, 14 plots throughout the state will be planted in such crops either by aerially seeding into a standing crop of corn or soybeans or by drilling a cover crop seed mix into the soil after harvest. All of the plots are located adjacent to an interstate or state highway and were specifically chosen because of their high visibility.
Signs at each of the plots will direct passers-by to covercrops.illinois.gov, a website established as a “one-stop shop” for information about cover crops. The site will include a link to the Midwest Cover Crops Decision Tool, an interactive resource that provides specific information on which varieties of cover crops are best suited to meet a grower’s objectives as well as the best dates for planting and management advice.
Listen to Governor Quinn explain more in this Q&A with reporters at the show: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
2013 Farm Progress Show Photo Album
The last time peanuts were the subject of a USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) was 2004 but soon those outdated figures for peanut farmers financial and crop production practices will be updated, according to USDA officials who attended the 2013 Southern Peanut Growers Conference this past week in Panama City Beach, Florida.
“This is a crucial time for us to get the information from the peanut industry because there’s been a lot of changes since 2004,” said Shiela Corley, Manager of the Environmental & Economic Surveys Section for USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). “We have three different phases. We just finished up the first phase and the second phase will be looking at chemicals, fertilizer use, production practices, pest management practices. Then we’ll come back in winter/early spring 2014 and ask about economic issues.” The ultimate goal is to get a total economic picture of the industry. Interview with Shiela Corley, USDA-NASS
USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) is also involved in this survey and Dr. William McBride is leader of the Commodity Cost and Return Estimation Project. “We do estimates for 12 different commodities on a rotating basis and we’re doing peanuts this year,” he said.
Dr. McBride says the data collected in this survey is important for growers because it is used in policy decision making processes at both state and federal levels. “Cost of production is a piece of information that really helps,” he said. “This information goes a long way in informing policy makers…so all commodities can be compared on an even basis.”
He stresses that all personal information collected from farmers is completely confidential and is only reported and made public in aggregate form and he urges all growers who are contacted to respond as quickly as possible so they can meet their goal of 100% participation. Interview with William McBride, USDA-ERS
2013 SPGC Photo Album
Getting caught up in government regulations and red tape is something any farmer wants to avoid, and attendees of the recent Conservation Technology Information Center tour in Livingston County, Ill., heard how they can avoid more of that with voluntary programs, such as the one on display on the tour. Marcia Willhite, the Chief of the Bureau of Water with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency said they’re encouraged by the success of the Indian Creek project and how voluntary efforts by farmers are paying dividends for everyone.
“Our culture is such on the agricultural side that a voluntary, incentive-based approach is what we have to work with,” she said. “I think it might be somewhat of a motivator to avoid regulations, but my sense is that the speakers and farmers in this watershed are focusing on is they see the benefit for their own productivity, they see the benefit for water quality for their own community.”
Marcia went on to say that this is a good story that needs to be told about how farmers and government are working together for the betterment of all.
“We’ve just been real excited about the success of finding out what happens when a large number of producers within a watershed decide to commit to conservation practices. There has been leadership among producers, taking charge of what they want to do to address water quality issues.”
You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Hans here: Interview with Marcia Willhite, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album
During the CTIC Conservation in Action Tour I got this photo of EPA’s Denise Keehner, Director, Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds and Acting Chief Jason Weller, USDA-NRCS. They were attending the CTIC Conservation in Action Tour and met after luncheon remarks by Denise.
I spoke with Denise after her remarks and on the subject of inter-agency cooperation she says it is the best she’s ever seen it. She says it feels real good to get outside the beltway and she’s “so impressed with what’s going on in these communities with these farmers, the producers who are implementing conservation practices that are really problem solving and taking some risks in the process.” She says she has learned so much on the tour and that statement validates one of the reasons CTIC holds these tours and invites such a wide variety of attendees that includes governmental regulators.
I asked her about concerns farmers have about regulations coming out of Washington, DC from agencies like EPA. She says, “I think EPA really does recognize, particularly with the nutrient related issue, the non-point source issue, that the best problem solving is going to occur locally and in collaboration and cooperation with state agencies.”
You can listen to my interview with Denise here: Interview with Denise Keehner
You can also listen to Denise’s remarks here: Remarks from Denise Keehner
2013 Conservation in Action Tour Photo Album
Agricultural groups are discouraged with the passage today of the U.S. House of Representatives’ H.R. 1947, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM). The bill slid through with a tight margin of 216 to 208 after more than six hours of debate today and did not include food stamp authorization or nutrition programs, which the House says it will address as separate issues.
However, during the debates, several legislators noted that the point of the farm bill is to feed Americans and this bill in fact does not achieve this goal. “What we have here is not a farm bill,” said Rep. David Scott, (D-GA). “You tell me how in the world we can have a farm bill and separate food and nutrition out from it. The American people don’t get that. When you think of farms and you think of agriculture, you mean to tell me it ain’t about food?”
Bob Stallman, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation reacted with the statement that the organization looks forward to moving ahead with fundamental farm policy legislation. “While we don’t yet know what the next steps will be, we will be working with both sides of the aisle and both chambers of Congress to ensure passage of a new five-year farm bill.”
Stallman added, “While we were hopeful the farm bill would not be split, nor permanent law repealed, we will now focus our efforts on working with lawmakers to deliver a farm bill to the president’s desk for his signature by September.”
Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) stood in opposition to the bill – one that he began debates on in 2010. He noted that one reason was the move to split the nutrition and food stamps program from the bill. “It jeopardizes changes of the bill ever becoming law, and I think repealing permanent law all but ensures we’ll never write a farm bill again in this House.”
Collin is not alone in his opposition and pointed out that last week, 532 diverse organizations came out in opposition to the split. Continue reading
Despite an impassioned plea by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to “move this bill forward” the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (FARRM) failed on a vote of 194 to 234, with 60 Republicans joining the majority of Democrats to defeat the House version of the farm bill.
“If it fails today, I can’t guarantee you’ll see in this Congress another attempt,” said Lucas. “If you care about your folks, if you care about this institution … vote with me on final. If you don’t, when you leave here they’ll just say it’s a dysfunctional body, a broken institution full of dysfunctional people. That’s not true!”
Listen to Rep. Lucas urging his colleagues to vote for the bill Rep. Frank Lucas on the House farm bill
Here’s a link to Roll Call vote.
By a vote of 66 to 27, the full Senate passed its version of a 2013 Farm Bill Monday evening that includes a strong conservation commitment.
“The Senate has again passed a deficit-reducing, bipartisan bill that will help our farms, our families, our economy, our environment,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) upon passage of the bill. “This bill saves more than $24 billion, it maintains important investments in conservation and nutrition, renewable energy and rural development.”
The Senate Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 links crop insurance to conservation compliance and saves money by consolidating 23 conservation programs down to 13.
“I am pleased that the Senate was able to come together in a bipartisan manner to pass the 2013 Farm Bill, which is a vital piece of legislation for family farmers and ranchers across the country,” said National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson. “I am happy to see language included that will provide a safety net for family farmers and ranchers, as well as a robust crop insurance program, mandatory energy funding, streamlined conservation programs, additional protections for livestock producers and incentives for locally owned and organic production.”
American Soybean Association (ASA) president, Danny Murphy of Mississippi says the bill will provide certainty for all farmers. “The bill passed this evening represents many of ASA’s priorities and is a critical step toward strengthening the farm safety net, protecting planting flexibility, improving conservation, bolstering exports and feeding our nation’s hungry,” he said in a statement.
The full House is expected to take up its version of a farm bill next week.
“Water, sunlight, and soil are essential ingredients to agricultural businesses and the communities that rely on them. So too is spectrum, and the free, local news and information broadcasted on it.”
That’s the first line of a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week from agricultural interests regarding concerns about television translator service and low
power television (LPTV).
Several organizations representing agriculture, conservation and cooperatives signed letters to the FCC and Congressional committee members urging them to research the impact that impending spectrum incentive auctions could have on television translator service and low power television service in rural areas. Last year Congress authorized the FCC to conduct voluntary spectrum incentive auctions allowing television broadcasters to sell their channels to wireless companies for a portion of the auction proceeds. Low-power television stations and TV translators are not guaranteed a channel location and will not be compensated for their moves, which may result in viewers losing current channels and limiting access to local news and information.
Dennis Wharton with the National Association of Broadcasters explains the issue: NAB Executive Vice President, Communications, Dennis Wharton
Organizations that signed letters sent to the FCC and Congress this week included, American Agri-Women, Association of Range Consultants, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, United States Cattlemen’s Association and Women Involved in Farm Economics.