Join Us for Farm Advocate Workshops at PASA’s Farming for the Future Conference

A project of Farm AidRAFI-USA and several cooperating partners, the Farm Advocate Link is a newly established national network of farm advocates whose goal is to honor and support established advocates, welcome new and aspiring advocates, and provide ongoing training, professional development and a shared sense of purpose to farm advocates across the country.

The Farm Advocate Link will offer two workshops: Farm Advocacy 101 and Dealing with Disasters, at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Farming for the Future conference on February 8th & 9th. The workshops, open to everyone, will be led by Joel Morton of Farm Aid, Scott Marlow of RAFI-USA, and Lynn Hayes of the Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG).

For descriptions of each workshop and more information about the Farm Advocate Link, visit www.farmaid.org/advocates. For more about the PASA conference, visit conference.pasafarming.org.

Upcoming Webinar on Organic Farm Conservation

This week, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT/ATTRA) will present a webinar with Harriet Behar, an organic specialist at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). The webinar, “Virtual Tour of Organic Farm Conservation Activity Planning,” will take place on Thursday, January 31st at 1pm EST.

This webinar is the third in a four-part series established for people interested in becoming NRCS-approved Technical Service Providers (TSPs). Behar is an approved TSP and will lead a virtual farm tour, identifying conservation concerns and possible mitigation strategies, as well as areas that affect organic certification. This unique webinar is helpful not only to potential TSPs, but any organic farmer interested in conservation practices on the farm.

To register for the webinar on January 31st, visit: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/576856170

The final webinar will be on Thursday, March 21st, on the topic of how NRCS TSPs can support biodiversity conservation in organic systems. See below for the first two webinars in the series:

Title:  Doing NRCS Conservation Activity Planning for Organic Farmers and Ranchers
Presenter: Katy Green of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

Title:  Becoming a Technical Service Provider for NRCS: An Introduction
Presenter: Harriet Behar of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

Be Counted! Turn In Your Ag Census Form by Feb. 4th

Every five years, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts the Census of Agriculture.

Data collected in the Census of Agriculture ranges from land use and production practices to farm expenditures and farm ownership demographics. This critical information is used to shape policy, USDA programs, research, and funding for farmers and ranchers throughout the country. Says Renee Picanso of NASS, “If you want to be heard and you want agriculture represented, now is your chance.”

All farmers should have received Census forms in the mail this December. The deadline to return forms (either by mail or online) is Monday, February 4th. 

For Census purposes, a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold during the Census year (2012). Any farmers, new or established, who did not receive a questionnaire in the mail should provide their contact information at www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/ and NASS will send them a questionnaire. You will have until March 31st to sign up.

Visit www.agcensus.usda.gov to submit Census forms online and to find tips or answers to frequently asked questions.

Veteran Careers in Agriculture

The Farmer-Veteran Coalition recently published “Veteran Careers in Agriculture: A Resource Guide,” available on their newly revamped website. The guide contains information for U.S. veterans interested in sustainable farming, covering training opportunities, farm organizations, agricultural employment, and farm business planning, as well as stories about veterans who have successfully transitioned into farming careers.

The mission of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition is to mobilize veterans to feed America. Learn more at www.farmvetco.org.

Closing Dates Approaching for Federal Crop Insurance Programs

Spring sales closing dates are quickly approaching for Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) programs, which include the whole farm insurance programs Adjusted Gross Revenue Pilot (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue-Lite (AGR-Lite). Both current policyholders and uninsured growers must make decisions on crop insurance coverage before the closing dates. See below for specific dates:

  • January 31, 2013: Final date to buy or change AGR insurance in select counties. Final date to submit required documents to continue or change 2013 AGR-Lite insurance for existing policyholders.
  • March 15, 2013: Final date to buy or change all other Spring Seeded MPCI (excluding those crops with other closing dates). Final date to buy 2013 AGR-Lite insurance for new application/enrollment policies.

Producers should visit their local crop insurance agent as soon as possible for specific details because the closing dates vary for specific crops. If there is no coverage in a county for a specific crop under the traditional MPCI program, producers are encouraged to ask crop insurance agents whether they would be eligible under a written agreement.

A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers or on the Risk Management Agency’s website.

Winter “Farminars” from Practical Farmers of Iowa

The Practical Farmers of Iowa offers free online seminars on a wide variety of topics. Most webinars are 90 minutes long and take place on Tuesdays from 7:00 – 8:30pm CST.

Some of the upcoming topics include:

  • Specialty Crop Insurance (*special lunchtime webinar tomorrow, Jan. 24th)
  • Explore the Profit Potential of High Tunnels
  • Considerations for Year-Round Employment for Vegetable Farms
  • Feed Alternatives to Corn and Soybeans
  • Selecting the Right Genetics for a Grass-Based System

For more information and to register online, visit: www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar/.

New Online One-Stop-Shop for Energy Use Reduction

The Farm Energy Working Group at the University of Northern Iowa has created an online One Stop Shop to help small and mid-sized farmers reduce on-farm energy use. The website includes information on where to find energy auditors, utility rebates, and funding opportunities, as well as short videos of successful projects farmers have implemented to be more energy efficient. Some of their strategies to reduce fossil fuel use include wind energy, solar hot water and solar electric, corn or wood-burning boilers to heat greenhouses, and more.

To learn how you can increase your energy efficiency, visit the Farm Energy Working Group’s One Stop Shop at: www.uni.edu/ceee/farmenergy/onestopshop.

Upcoming Webinar on Pastured Poultry Production

On February 7th, a webinar on “Pastured Poultry Production and Profitability” is being offered by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)Montana Mission Mountain Food and Cooperative Development Center, and Salish Kootenai College as part of the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) education and community outreach program. NCAT Sustainable Poultry Specialist Terrell “Spence” Spencer will present the basics of pastured poultry production, advantages and pitfalls of the business, and the keys to staying profitable. This free, hour-long webinar kicks off a series of workshops that will be offered in Montana this March.

The webinar is open to everyone. To register, go to https://attra.ncat.org/poultry.

Looking to Improve Animal Welfare on Your Farm? Apply for Fund-a-Farmer Grants!

The application period is open for the Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) Fund-a-Farmer Project: a micro-grants initiative that assists farmers in improving animal welfare. The Fund-a-Farmer Project grants up to $1,500 for projects that (1) help farms transition to pasture-based systems, (2) improve the marketing of their humane products, or (3) more generally enrich the conditions in which farm animals are raised. Last year, FACT awarded $13,000 to nine farms across the country.

Working, independent family farmers who raise pigs, broiler chickens, laying hens, dairy cows and/or beef cattle are eligible to apply for any of the grants. Projects involving goats and sheep are only eligible for marketing grants. Apply online at www.fundafarmer.org. Applications are due by May 1, 2013, and grants will be awarded in August 2013.

Hurricane Sandy Damage? Sign Up Now for Emergency Conservation Program

Producers who suffered severe damage from Hurricane Sandy have until January 29, 2013 to sign up for cost-share assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP). Removing debris from farmland and restoring permanent fencing are two rehabilitation measures that may be eligible for assistance of up to 75% of their cost. To be eligible, approved restoration measures must not be carried out until an application has been filed, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) has done an on-site inspection of damage, and a needs determination has been made by the appropriate agency.

Contact your local FSA office to find out whether your farm is eligible and how to apply. Also see Farm Aid’s list of resources for farmers facing natural disasters, as well as an earlier blog post on post-Sandy resources.