Agricultural news briefs


Staff Reports



USDA Offers Renewal Options for Expiring Conservation Stewardship Program Contracts.

USDA’s Largest Conservation Program Helps Producers Improve Health, Productivity of Working Lands.

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2017 – Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young today announced that a contract renewal sign-up is underway for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest working lands conservation program with more than 80 million acres enrolled. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made several updates to the popular program last fall. These changes help producers better evaluate conservation options that benefit their operations while improving the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands.

“The changes made to CSP are providing even greater opportunities for stewardship-minded producers across the country to participate and bring their conservation efforts to a higher level,” said Young. “The new tools and methods for evaluating operations, expanded options to address the producer’s conservation and business objectives, and the focus on local resource priorities have resulted in a 30 percent increase in applications for this widely popular program.”

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31 can access the benefits of the recent program changes through an option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew expiring contracts are due by May 5.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, buffer strips, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, and soil health building activities – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. Benefits to producers can include:

Improved cattle gains per acre;

Increased crop yields;

Decreased inputs;

Wildlife population improvements; and

Better resilience to weather extremes.

“CSP is for working lands,” said Young. “Thousands of people have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.”

Producers interested in contract renewals or applying for CSP for the first time should visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp or contact their local USDA service center to learn more.

Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District Receives Education Grant from Ohio EPA.

More than 10,000 Delaware-area residents will have an opportunity to learn about watersheds with help from a $4,800 Ohio EPA Education grant to the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. The grant will fund a state-of-the-art topographic 3-D map design station to help teach students about topographic maps and land-forms.

The program uses computer-generated sensory input to project topographic maps of land-forms onto a sand basin. Visitors interact with the exhibit by shaping land-forms in sand. After colored elevation maps are drawn, virtual rain water flows down slopes to lower surfaces, showing the distribution of water into watersheds.

Eight grants were issued statewide for a total of $35,614. The Ohio Environmental Education Fund provides grants each year for environmental education projects serving kindergarten through university students, the public and the regulated community.

Eligible grant recipients include environmental groups, public and private schools, colleges and universities, trade or professional organizations, businesses and state and local governments. Letters of intent for the next grant round are due to Ohio EPA no later than July 10, 2017, and applications are due no later than July 17, 2017. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the Ohio Environmental Education Fund online or at 614-644-2873 to discuss project ideas.

For more information, visit www.epa.ohio.gov

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.

USDA Warns it Only Takes One Person to Spread Harmful Invasive Pests.

April is Awareness Month for Invasive Plant Pests.

Washington, April 3, 2017 — Each year, harmful invasive plant pests and diseases cost the United States about $40 billion in crop losses, damage to forests and vulnerable ecosystems, and expensive eradication and control efforts. It only takes one person who moves one piece of infested firewood, one infected plant, or one piece of infested fruit to spread these invasive pests to a new area. That’s why USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has designated April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Spring is the perfect time to remind everyone of the simple steps they can take to prevent the spread of harmful invasive plant pests.

“People wonder if their individual actions really matter. The answer is yes,” said APHIS’ Plant Protection and Quarantine Deputy Administrator Osama El-Lissy. “If you’re not careful, you can unknowingly spread invasive pests by simply taking firewood on a camping trip, buying plants or seeds online, or mailing a friend a gift of homegrown fruit.”

For example, USDA believes Huanglongbing (HLB, or citrus greening) was spread from Florida to California by one person who likely mailed an infected plant to that state. HLB was first detected in Florida in 2005 and has since spread rapidly. A concerted effort by USDA, states and the citrus industry is underway to find new strategies in the fight against HLB.

The good news is that individuals can also stop the spread of invasive pests by looking for and reporting suspicious insects or signs of damage. For example, USDA detected the Asian longhorned beetle in Boston in 2010, when a single groundskeeper with a keen eye noticed and reported an unusual dime-sized hole in a tree. That one call provided early warning to jumpstart an eradication effort that quickly eliminated this destructive pest from that city.

Here’s what you can do to help keep invasive pests from spreading as spring gets underway and all year round:

  • Spring is a busy time for buying plants. Buy yours from reputable nurseries or online businesses. Ask if they comply with federal and state quarantine restrictions to ensure their plants are pest-free.
  • Planning to travel? Whether it’s between states or to another country, check with your local USDA office before you bring back fruits, vegetables or plants, so you know what’s allowed. And when returning from abroad, always declare all agricultural items to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so they can make sure items are free of harmful pests or diseases.
  • When enjoying the great outdoors, don’t move untreated firewood. Instead, buy or responsibly gather firewood near the place you’ll burn it. Or, take certified, heat-treated firewood on your trip with you.
  • If you live in an area under state or federal quarantine for an invasive pest, don’t move produce or plants off your property. Call your local USDA office to find out how to safely dispose of yard debris like trees and branches. Also, allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property for pest or disease surveys.
  • Make sure to clean outdoor items before moving them. Wash dirt from outdoor gear and tires, before traveling long distances to or from fishing, hunting or camping trips. If relocating to a new home, clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items before placing them in a moving van or storage pod.
  • Finally, report any signs of invasive pests by going to www.HungryPests.com.

To learn more, visit www.HungryPests.com or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. The website includes photos and descriptions of 19 invasive pests that can be moved easily by people, an online federal quarantine tracker by state, and phone numbers for reporting signs of invasive pests. Questions? Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/planthealth/sphd to find contact information for your local USDA office. Or call USDA’s Customer Service Call Center toll-free at 1-844-820-2234 (open Mon. through Fri. from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern).

Ohio Tractor Supply Customers Donate $34,450 to Local FFA Student Projects.

Grants for Growing Program Funding Supports Student-Led FFA Projects in Ohio.

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (Apr. 3, 2017) – In support of the next generation of agricultural leaders, Tractor Supply Company and the National FFA Foundation partnered for the second consecutive year to back student-driven agriculture projects that will benefit Ohio communities and FFA chapters for years to come. This year, Grants for Growing will distribute an average of $1,435 to 24 FFA chapters for their impressive projects.

Tractor Supply Company, the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States, awarded 316 Grants for Growing to FFA chapters which requested funding for a wide variety of sustainable projects. In Ohio, the grants will help fund projects including a greenhouse landscape project, hydroponics system and maple syrup and apiary project.

“Tractor Supply customers and team members are proud to support Grants for Growing and the FFA because they truly believe an investment in agriculture education is an investment in our communities,” said Christi Korzekwa, senior vice president of marketing at Tractor Supply Company.

Between Jan. 10 and Feb. 13, the National FFA Foundation received over 800 applications from FFA chapters across the country detailing how they will start or expand a unique and sustainable project. During National FFA Week, Feb. 17 through Feb. 26, Tractor Supply hosted a 10-day in-store event in all Ohio stores that offered shoppers the opportunity to donate $1 or more at checkout in support of the program.

Many FFA chapters participated in additional fundraising opportunities at their local Tractor Supply stores. Students greeted customers and held their own promotional events, including bake sales, car washes and more.

“The Grants for Growing applications we received this year proved that FFA advisors across the country are tuned into the specific needs of their school or community FFA chapter,” said Lisa White, director of store marketing at Tractor Supply Company. “We can’t wait to see what creative projects and fresh ideas FFA chapters will imagine for next year’s program.”

For more details about the program, visit https://www.ffa.org/grantsforgrowing.

About Tractor Supply Company

Founded in 1938, Tractor Supply Company is the largest rural lifestyle retail store chain in the United States. At December 31, 2016, the Company operated 1,595 Tractor Supply stores in 49 states and an e-commerce website at www.tractorsupply.com. Tractor Supply stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers and others who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. Stores are located primarily in towns outlying major metropolitan markets and in rural communities. The Company offers the following comprehensive selection of merchandise: (1) equine, livestock, pet and small animal products, including items necessary for their health, care, growth and containment; (2) hardware, truck, towing and tool products; (3) seasonal products, including heating, lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys; (4) work/recreational clothing and footwear; and (5) maintenance products for agricultural and rural use.

Tractor Supply Company also owns and operates Petsense, a small-box pet specialty supply retailer focused on meeting the needs of pet owners, primarily in small and mid-size communities, and offering a variety of pet products and services. At December 31, 2016, the Company operated 143 Petsense stores in 26 states. For more information on Petsense, visit www.petsense.com.

About National FFA Organization

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 649,355 student members as part of 7,859 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is supported by 225,891 alumni members in 1,934 local FFA Alumni chapters throughout the U.S. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

About National FFA Foundation

The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agricultural education. Governed by a 19-member board of trustees comprised of educators, business leaders, individual donors and FFA alumni, the foundation is a separately-registered nonprofit organization. About 82 percent of every dollar received by the foundation supports FFA members and agricultural education opportunities. For more, visit FFA.org/Give.

State Ag, Environmental and Food Security Leaders.

Launch Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land.

Multi-year project brings together stakeholders to create integrated sustainable solutions to challenges of climate change, food security, economic development, biodiversity conservation.

Columbus, OH (April 3, 2017) – A multi-year project designed to help Ohio farmers adapt to a changing climate, improve the resiliency of their operations, as well as boost a wide array of ecosystem services from their land, while supporting local communities by producing nutritious food, is officially launching this week with the inaugural meeting of the Steering Committee of the Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land project.

The Steering Committee – comprised from a diverse coalition of state agricultural, environmental and food security leaders – aims to construct a strategy and action plan for making Ohio agriculture more sustainable and robust, while enabling the state’s farmland to deliver multiple food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystems services from the land.

Solutions from the Land (SfL), a national collaboration led by an acclaimed group of active farm, forestry and conservation leaders, is coordinating the three- to five-year project with the assistance of a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Teaming up with SfL on the initiative will be The Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT), along with other partners.

The initiative builds on multi-stakeholder partnerships that have been developing in the state around water quality, food policy and sustainable agriculture projects, and will bring together innovators through dialogue and planning to improve climate resiliency, and achieve nutrition, energy, environmental, health and economic goals.

Taking a holistic, integrated approach to land management, the Steering Committee begins this week to identify, build and nurture the value chains that support the sustainable production of food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services, and the delivery of goods and services up the food chain all the way to the most urban consumers.

One of the first steps to be undertaken through this project is to directly respond to the challenge of food insecurity, the lack of reliable access to a sufficient amount of food for an active, healthy life for all household members. One in six residents in Ohio struggle with keeping nutritious food on the table, and nearly one in four children face days without adequate, nutritious food. Food assistance can be critical to low-income residents, including the elderly and disabled individuals, who otherwise have to choose between paying for food or paying their utility bills or rent.

Lisa Hamler-Fuggitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and a co-chair of the project, says, “The value of good, nutritious food for healthy children, adults, seniors and to communities as a whole cannot be overstated. Food security leads to positive outcomes in brain development, education, health condition, worker productivity and overall well-being.

“Ohio is a national leader in agriculture, and Ohio’s farm community time and again has stepped up to assure fresh, Ohio-produced meats, dairy products, fruits, vegetables and much more are part of the solution to addressing food insecurity in our state,” she says. “This initiative will provide a critical boost in momentum to assure we can continue to feed the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Another challenge to the state’s food security to be addressed by the project is soil degradation caused by erosion, organic matter and nutrient depletion, and elemental imbalance.

Joe Hartzler, the other project co-chair, a Wooster dairy farmer and a co-founder of the Agroecosystems Management Program at OSU, says, “The soil is the foundation of our farms. But it is more than that; it is also the foundation of the health of all mankind,” he says. “A healthy soil will produce a healthy plant. A healthy plant consumed will produce a healthy animal. A healthy animal consumed will produce healthy people. Like my Dad, Harold Hartzler used to say, ‘All life begins in the soil.’”

This week, Steering Committee members will review the project’s goals, objectives and outcomes, as well as discuss and refine their vision, plan of work and timetable. The committee will identify the building blocks that can make up the Ohio Smart Agriculture Action Plan, and discuss the process that will be followed for developing the plan.

The committee begins its two-day session with a tour of mission-related operations, including the South Side Roots Café & Market, a local market operated by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank to assist local communities to gain access to nutritious food at affordable prices; Franklinton Gardens, a 2.5-acre urban farm that grows 44 different types of fruits and vegetables year-round in environmentally-sustainable ways, and distributes them to community residents at reduced cost; Price Farms Organics, in Delaware County, an Ohio EPA Certified composting facility that sells high quality mulch, topsoil and compost; and the Seminary Hill Farm, a certified organic farm that rests on 5 acres of land on the campus of Methodist Theological School in Ohio, outside of Columbus.

“The Steering Committee has committed to lofty goals, but members acknowledge the needs of the future are not met by small ambition,” said Fred Yoder, an Ohio grain farmer, a member of the committee and an SfL board member.

American Agri-Women Announces “Ag Day is Every Day” Campaign. #AgDay365 raises awareness about who produces our nation’s food, fiber and energy supply, every day, and connects producers with consumers.

COLCHESTER, Vermont, April 4, 2017 – American Agri-Women (AAW) announces its “Ag Day is Every Day Campaign,” and invites farmers, ranchers and consumers to join in and celebrate the fact that everyone is part of agriculture, every day. The campaign is also raising awareness about who produces our nation’s abundant food, fiber and energy supply.

American Agri-Women is the nation’s largest coalition of farm, ranch and agri-business women. The “Ag Day is Every Day” campaign, or #AgDay365, is inspired by and builds on the important connections made on National Ag Day, which was celebrated in March and organized by the Agriculture Council of America.

“American agriculture is among the best in the world — why not celebrate this fact every day? We want to raise up and connect the voices of those in agriculture with consumers,” says Doris Mold, president of American Agri-Women. Mold owns and operates a dairy farm in Wisconsin with her family and is a farm management consultant and educator.

AAW members have already been promoting #AgDay365 on social media, in special events and in personal conversations. AAW recently hosted 100 students on National Ag Day for a “Raising Voices Together” social media event. Other events are being coordinated this year by AAW or by its state and commodity affiliates, such as harvest dinners in the field; state fair activities; social media challenges; connecting with consumers at farmers markets and restaurants; working with urban agriculture efforts, food drives and pollinator projects.

The goal of the campaign is for the #AgDay365 campaign to continue on, joining forces with commodity groups, advocacy groups and others.

Major inaugural sponsors include Farm Credit, Caterpillar, Bayer Crop Science, and CCI Marketing. Sponsorships for the campaign or special events are still available. Please contact Sue McCrum, pastpresident@americanagriwomen.org, for more information.

About American Agri-Women

American Agri-Women promotes the welfare of our national security through a safe and reliable food, fiber and energy supply. For 42 years, AAW members have worked together to educate consumers; advocate for agriculture; and offer networking and professional development opportunities. Go to the AAW web site for more information and to join, www.americanagriwomen.org. Find AAW on social media at: Facebook.com/AgriWomen/ and Twitter.com/Women4Ag/ (@Women4Ag). AAW also hosts the “Women4Ag” Facebook page for consumer information and the “AgDay365” Facebook page for campaign updates.

USDA Authorizes Emergency Grazing in Response to President Trump’s Directive

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), acting in response to a directive from President Donald J. Trump, today authorized emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas – the three states which were most heavily impacted by ongoing wildfires which began on March 6, 2017.

USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young issued a memorandum authorizing the emergency grazing of cattle by ranchers, who are facing the ruination of their herds due to lack of sufficient grazing land. The authorization is pursuant to appropriate restrictions and conservation measures, which can be found in the Acting Deputy Secretary’s memorandum.

“Ranchers are facing devastating conditions and economic calamity because of these wildfires and they need some relief, or else they face the total loss of their herds in many cases,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Young. “These measures will allow them to salvage what remains of their cattle and return to the important business of feeding Americans and the rest of the world. I commend and thank President Trump for acting decisively in response to this dire situation.”

The USDA action is required to direct the Farm Service Agency to permit the grazing on lands covered by the CRP, which exists to conserve and improve wildlife resources. In this case, the grazing will overlap with the primary nesting season of the lesser prairie chicken. CRP has procedures in place, already developed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to permit emergency grazing on protected lands during nesting season. Lesser prairie chicken nesting season runs in Texas from March 1 to June 1, in Kansas from April 15 to July 15, and in Oklahoma from May 1 to July 1.

Ranchers and farmers are only now able to begin to estimate losses, since the fires are still burning in some places and access to the lands to survey the damage has been limited. Damages in the states are expected to grow, but are now estimated as follows:

Kansas

  • Counties affected include Clark, Comanche, Ellis, Ellsworth, Ford, Hodgeman, Kiowa, Lane, Lincoln, Meade, Ness, Russell, and Seward.
  • An estimated 630,000 acres burned, primarily pasturelands.
  • Estimated livestock loss: between 3,000 and 9,000 head of cattle.
  • Large volumes of hay and feed destroyed.
  • Estimated cost of fencing destroyed exceeds $36 million.

Oklahoma

  • Counties affected include Beaver, Ellis, Harper, Roger Mills, Woodward, and Woods.
  • An estimated 389,533 acres burned.
  • Estimated livestock loss: 3,000 head of cattle.
  • An estimated cost of structure loss of $2 million.
  • Estimated cost of fencing destroyed exceeds $22 million.

Texas

  • Counties affected include Armstrong, Carson, Collingsworth, Donley, Gray, Hansford, Hemphill, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, and Wheeler.
  • An estimated 550,000 acres burned, affecting 346 farms and ranches.
  • Estimated livestock loss: at least 3,000 cattle and 1,900 swine.
  • Thousands of miles of fences expected to be a total loss, but so far unable to be surveyed.

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Staff Reports

USDA Offers Renewal Options for Expiring Conservation Stewardship Program Contracts.

USDA’s Largest Conservation Program Helps Producers Improve Health, Productivity of Working Lands.

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2017 – Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young today announced that a contract renewal sign-up is underway for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), USDA’s largest working lands conservation program with more than 80 million acres enrolled. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) made several updates to the popular program last fall. These changes help producers better evaluate conservation options that benefit their operations while improving the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands.

“The changes made to CSP are providing even greater opportunities for stewardship-minded producers across the country to participate and bring their conservation efforts to a higher level,” said Young. “The new tools and methods for evaluating operations, expanded options to address the producer’s conservation and business objectives, and the focus on local resource priorities have resulted in a 30 percent increase in applications for this widely popular program.”

Participants with existing CSP contracts that will expire on Dec. 31 can access the benefits of the recent program changes through an option to renew their contracts for an additional five years if they agree to adopt additional activities to achieve higher levels of conservation on their lands. Applications to renew expiring contracts are due by May 5.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, buffer strips, pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, and soil health building activities – all while maintaining active agricultural production on their land. Benefits to producers can include:

Improved cattle gains per acre;

Increased crop yields;

Decreased inputs;

Wildlife population improvements; and

Better resilience to weather extremes.

“CSP is for working lands,” said Young. “Thousands of people have made the choice to voluntarily enroll in the program because it helps them enhance natural resources and improve their business operation.”

Producers interested in contract renewals or applying for CSP for the first time should visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/csp or contact their local USDA service center to learn more.