New USDA Protection Available for Specialty Crop Growers

The US Department of Agriculture announced last week that new added protections are available for fruit, vegetable and specialty crop growers under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. The new options were built into the 2014 Farm Bill and are meant to specifically address natural disasters that impact specialty crops.

The USDA’s press release further explained:

“Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.”

To learn more about the program, you can visit this Web tool created by the USDA in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois.

Registration Open for New Mexico Sustainable Ag Conference

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The New Mexico Sustainable Agriculture Conference, presented by Western SARE and New Mexico State University, is open for registration! The event will take place on December 17 from 8:30 – 4 pm at the Roswell Convention Center in Roswell, NM. You can view the brochure and program for the event here to find out more.

Click here to register for the event or to learn more. Can’t make it? The presentations from the conference will be archived with NM State University here.

Food Tank’s Featured Organizations Helping Veterans

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but we support our nation’s veterans all year long. To celebrate the recent holiday, Food Tank posted an article featuring 21 organizations around the world that are dedicated to cultivating a community of veterans working in farming and agriculture. The list was just too good not to share, highlighting many organizations that are already featured in Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network.

The following was taken directly from Food Tank’s “21 Projects Helping Vets Through Food and Agriculture:”

Armed to Farm (ATF) is a National Center for Appropriate Technology program that provides training on sustainable agriculture to veterans. ATF is a combination of farm tours and classroom instruction that focuses on business planning, livestock production, and fruit and vegetable production.

Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots is a University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture program that prepares veterans to work in the agricultural field through education and training. The program helps match the participants with farm and ranch owners.

Community Youth Network Program (CYNP) was founded by former Liberian soldier, Junior Toe, to give purpose to ex-combatants trying to reintegrate into society. Toe teaches former soldiers to raise poultry, grow produce, and earn money through farming to support their families. CYNP also runs a Young Farmers Forum to create a community for its members.

Delaware Valley College Organic Farming Program for Military and Vets is a one-year certification program offered through Delaware Valley College and Rodale Institute that trains veterans in organic farming in order to transition them back to civilian life. Students take courses in subjects such as commercial vegetable production, sustainable agriculture, and plant health management.

Eat the Yard, in Dallas, Texas, was founded by Iraq War veterans, James Jeffers and Steve Smith, to cultivate fresh produce in community gardens. Jeffers and Smith first began organic farming in their own backyards for both therapeutic and financial reasons, then slowly began to build more gardens in their community. They now sell the produce from these gardens to local restaurants and businesses.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) was developed in post-conflict northern Uganda, by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in partnership with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The program teaches modern agricultural skills to Ugandan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The training emphasizes practice-oriented learning and small group meetings based on similar interests. Upon graduation, smallholder farmers are awarded a grant to start their own agricultural enterprise.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is working with veterans across the U.S. to transition into agriculture. The Coalition partners veterans with mentors who are experienced in farming and business, matches them with job opportunities in agriculture, and organizes equipment donations in Iowa and California. FVC is helping former members of the armed forces in 48 states.

Goat Peak Ranch is a ranch in New Mexico that offers a Veterans Internship Program. The Program offers weekend and weeklong educational sessions and accepts veterans to assist on the ranch year-round.

Heroic Food is a tuition-free farmer-training program for military veterans in partnership with the FVC. Heroic Food places veterans in paid on-farm apprenticeships and teaches them about sustainable farming, agricultural trade, and food crafting.

Lucky Nickel Ranch, owned by a Marine Corps veteran, serves as both an organic farm and a classroom for veterans. The program partners with the University of Arizona College of Life Sciences and Extension in order to provide both training and classroom time, where participants learn about the science of farming and how to write a business plan.

Roots to Road is a program operated by the Vancouver-based job training agency Partners in Careers. The program employs veterans to farm a one-acre plot; the produce is then donated to local charities.

Semper Fresh Farms is run by two U.S. Marine Corps veterans. The farm works in conjunction with veterans’ organizations such as the FVC in order to train and employ veterans.

Vets to Ag is a program at Michigan State University that trains homeless U.S. veterans to work in the field of agriculture. Participants are trained in areas such as plant and soil science, equipment operation, and integrated pest management. Job development and employer outreach is included in the Vets to Ag program.

Veterans Agricultural Center of Connecticut (VACC) provides both training and therapy to veterans. VACC provides hands-on instruction in farming skills for participants as well as full-service handicap accessible lodging and employment services.

Veterans to Farmers (VTF) strives to bring family farming back to the forefront of the American landscape. VTF was founded by U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams in 2011 after overwhelming veteran interest in his organic greenhouse program. Veterans complete a 12-week program, then VTF provides employment support. Several of the VTF graduates now own their own greenhouses, including Evan Premer who describes the greenhouse as a “decompression zone.”

Veteran Farmers of America (VFA) helps veterans make a transition back to civilian life by introducing them to farming. VFA provides veterans with paid internships and places them at a vegan-operated farm.

Veteran Farmers Project is a Center for Rural Affairs program that gives veterans, almost a million of whom come from rural communities, an opportunity to return to their agricultural roots and reinvigorate America’s small farms. The Project provides veterans with agricultural education to help them succeed as farmers.

Veterans Farm Veterans Training Program is partnered with the Veteran Network on Farming and Success to train veterans in all aspects of agriculture. Students in this program learn how to improve irrigation and produce quality organic crops. Veteran farmers receive training in operations management, organic certification, and management skills.

Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) Program trains transitioning service men and women in all aspects of agriculture and food production, including hydroponics, environmental control, and greenhouse management during a six-week intensive course. The program also assists more than 200 graduates in job placement and business creation.

Warriors that Farm works with Texas A&M University in order to provide opportunities for veterans through sustainable agriculture. The university provides credit hours upon completion of the program.

317 Village in Chhuk District, Kampot Province is a Cambodian government-funded initiative that has committed US $3 million to provide 240 families of military veterans and disabled war victims with houses and plots of land to farm. Each plot measures approximately 1.5 acres. This project is providing new hope to families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by civil war.

USDA Announces New Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance Protection

pumpkins meet christmas trees

Photo © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Earlier this month the USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced a new insurance policy available for 2015. With the Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policy, producers have the opportunity to insure between 50 to 85 percent of their revenue.

The new policy includes a variety of coverage including expanding operations, replanting, market readiness costs and more. In addition to insurance coverage, the Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policy will provide premium subsidies to farms with two or more commodities.

“Whole-Farm Revenue Protection allows these growers to insure a variety of crops at once,” the USDA press release explained, “instead of one commodity at a time. That gives them the option of embracing more crop diversity and helps support the production of a wider variety of foods.”

For more information visit the RMA’s full press release or the USDA’s Farm Bill webpage.

USDA Webinar for Small-Scale Livestock Producers

Coming up next week: the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) will hold a webinar to discuss the Grass-Fed Program for Small and Very Small (SVS) Producers–a program that aims to create more opportunities for small-scale livestock produces.

The webinar will go over eligibility and how to market products as USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef in a way that is less costly and more in tune with the needs of small-scale producers. In order to get this certification, weaned animals must be fed only grass and forage and no grain or grain byproducts. Ruminants must also have access to pasture throughout the growing season.

AMS announced this new program for small grass-fed producers this past spring. Read more on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog and on the USDA’s blog.

 

Who: Small-scale and niche market livestock producers (those marketing less than 49 head of cattle each year).

What: AMS webinar about the Grass-Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers.

Where: Listen in via phone or computer: Phone: 866.740.1260, access code 72020000; Computerhttp://www.readytalk.com On the left side of the screen enter participant access code: 72020000.

When: Tuesday August 5th; 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM Eastern Time

**Send questions for the presenters to Jennifer.Turpin@ams.usda.gov

How does the FSMA affect you?

On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to shift focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. In order to ensure that everyone from the farmer to the processor to the consumer are playing their role in keeping food safe, the FSMA required the FDA to proposed a set of rules authorized at the farm level: the Produce Rule regulates standards for produce production and the Preventive Controls Rule regulates food safety measure for facilities that process food for human consumption. These rules are still in the proposal stage so they are not signed into law yet, but if you own or operate a farm or small business it may be impacted should these rules pass. Read on to find out if or how you may be affected.

What It Is

The Produce Rule builds on existing voluntary industry guidelines for food safety currently followed by many producers, growers and others. The rule focuses on areas of risk such as agricultural water, biological soil amendments, health and hygiene, domesticated and wild animals and equipment, tools and buildings.

The Preventive Controls Rule will require facilities to have written plans in place that identify potential hazards, detail the necessary steps to address those hazards, verify that the steps are working and outline how to fix any problems that arise.

For more details click here.

How It Effects Producers and Processors

The Produce Rule may affect you if you grow, harvest, pack or store fruits or vegetables.

The Preventive Controls Rule may affect you if you process, manufacture, pack or store human food

Both the Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule may affect you if you grow harvest, pack or store fruits and vegetables AND process, manufacture, pack or store human food

For details on who these rules may affect, click here.

Check out the FDA’s fact sheet on the FSMA proposed rules for a full summary, background and predicted impacts.

For guidance on creating your own food safety plan, check out FamilyFarmed.org’s page on how to create one.

Land Transfer, Succession and Tenure Resource Roundup

The average age of farmers in America is 57, a figure that consistently is on the rise. As a result, farmland succession is becoming of greater concern while beginning farmers are simultaneously struggling to find affordable farmland. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for farmers that can help with land transfer, tenure and succession planning.

International Farm Transition Network (IFTN) 

The IFTN website lists all land link organizations by state. Land link currently exists in 23 states as a resource that connects farmers that are seeking land with farmland that is for sale or lease. Oftentimes, these programs assist farmers with lease negotiation and can even provide financial support during the process. Some land link programs offer succession planning training or resources.

California FarmLink offers an extensive online list of resources available to farmers seeking to buy or sell land.

Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance offers an online map with listings of all land trust organizations by state. A land trust is an organization that works to conserve land through helping with the process of easement attainment or management. An agricultural easement is an important tool in dealing with succession, allowing farmers to dictate what their land is used for after it is sold. This can be invaluable to a farmer by restricting development on the land after it is passed on so it is farmed in the future.

The Greenhorns

 The Greenhorns offers an Access to Land guide that provides links to resources focusing on incubator farms, farm link programs, lease agreements, agricultural and conservation easements and land tenure.

Agrarian Trust

The Agrarian Trust resource page contains a growing list of resources that can help with many aspects of land access, transfer and succession planning. Some of the categories covered in this list include: accessing land, financing and financial planning, agricultural mediation and legal services, succession planning, and much more!

Land for Good

This 2013 Resource Spotlight highlights succession guides that are available to assist with the farm succession process. The publications cover everything “from setting goals to understanding legal and financial terms used in farmland and business transfers.”

The site’s Toolbox page also contains resources pertaining to land access, tenure and transfer separated into the following categories: farm seekers, farm transfer planning, landowners, educators and advisors and communities.

Land Stewardship Project

The Land Stewardship Project, in partnership with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Farmers Legal Action Group, National Center for Appropriate Technology and the United States Department of Agriculture, developed the Farm Transitions Toolkit. This comprehensive guide provides step-by-step information and advice on the transition process.

Are you a beginning farmer with questions about land access? Check out our Beginning Farmer and Farm Start-Up Resource Guides for more information!

Crop Insurance Resource Roundup

Risk management is a crucial aspect of farming, particularly with the extreme weather conditions that are hitting the United States. A critical part of this is crop insurance. To get the basics, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency developed a webpage with answers to common questions surrounding crop insurance. Below are some tools available for free online that can help farmers navigate how to effectively implement crop insurance.

Crop Insurance for Individuals

FLAG created a PDF intended as a training guide for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives that provides an in depth look into crop insurance for individuals. This document is available to anyone for free online. It covers everything there is to know behind the roles and rules of insuring crops through Federal Crop Insurance or a private insurer. The document also delves into what is covered under crop insurance, what to look for in a contract and much more.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program

This program is available for producers that were hit by a natural disaster without crop insurance.

Utah State University Extension developed a presentation explaining everything there is to know about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency also offers an informative disaster assistance fact sheet focusing on the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Organic Crop Insurance

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency produced a fact sheet explaining the Contract Price Addendum, which now allows organic producers to insure crops at a set price specified in a contract. The addendum is applicable to 62 types of crops.

Corn and Soybean Crop Insurance

Iowa State’s Extension program offers two helpful PDF’s available through the Decision Tools section of its website. These free downloadable PDFs offer valuable insight into choosing crop insurance plans for corn and soybeans; the first of which provides a tool to compare different strategies for insurance on corn and soybeans, while the second compares the risk behind GRIP and GRP crop insurance for these crops.

Cover Crops and Crop Insurance

The National Resources Conservation Service put the Cover Crop Termination Guidelines online in a downloadable PDF format.

For a more in depth look, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Center for Appropriate Technology created a webinar that explains “when and how to terminate cover crops and maintain eligibility for crop insurance coverage of subsequently planted cash crops.”

Other Helpful Tools

University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension collected various crop insurance fact sheet publications covering the following topics: apples, peaches, corn, fresh market sweet corn, forage production, forage seeding, nursery and insurance coverage for organic crops.

Resource Partners Event Roundup

Center for Rural Affairs

April: The Center for Rural Affairs (CFA) has two events this month. In partnership with The Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, CFA is hosting the WI Farmer Veterans Tour and Workshop on April 12.  Veterans and family members interested in farming careers are invited to attend this event at Growing Power Farms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A tour of the farm and its composting and aquaponics system will be followed by workshops at the farm. Admission is free and seating is limited so register here to reserve your spot!

Also on the 12th is the Farm Dreams Workshop. Women interested in farming and ranching will be able to participate in a four-hour workshop to get a feel for the professions and learn how to take the first steps to enter the field. The workshop takes place at the Syracuse Public Library in Syracuse, Nebraska and costs $5. Participants must register in advance and can contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134.

May: On May 10 the Farm Business Financing Workshop for Women will take place at the Lewis and Clark Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The event is an intensive business planning and farm-financing course to help women farmers and ranchers design a business plan and access financing for agricultural operations. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance. The event costs $5 and lunch is included.

June: For those thinking about venturing into the farmers market business, the June 7 event Selling at Farmers Markets gives tips and tricks to find the best location, customer base, product, presentation and price to maximize success. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, this event costs $5 and includes lunch. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register.

On June 21, Selling Through a CSA will teach women getting started in gardening, farming, and ranching about the advantages of selling through a community supported agriculture system. The workshop will take place at the Webermeier Public Library in Milford, Nebraska. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance 

National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA)

April: On April 25 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA) will host Entering the Institutional Food Market. Montana farmers, ranchers and processors will be provided information and technical assistance.  Register for this $10 event here by April 20 to reserve a spot.

June: With Montana adopting a new energy code requiring blower door and duct tightness testing for all new homes, there are emerging business opportunities in residential energy efficiency. On June 2, the Home Energy Rater and Energy Star Training in Missoula, Montana will provide comprehensive energy auditor training with an emphasis on new residential construction and the Home Energy Raters rating process. Participants will be prepared to take the tests required to become a certified Home Energy Rater, a Northwest Energy Star Homes Verifier and a Northwest Energy Star Homes Performance Tester. Register online and click here for more details 

Rodale Institute

April: Interested in having your own chickens? On April 26 the Rodale Institute is hosting the Backyard Chickens event to educate those looking to learn how to make chickens a part of their family and get fresh eggs everyday. Participants will learn about cost, breeding, housing, feeding, protecting and handling chickens, as well as leave with a list of recommended books and resources on how to complete this project efficiently. Register ahead of time here.

The Greenhorns

 April: . The future of farmland is unclear. In the next 20 years an expected 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. On April 26 and 27 Our Land: A Symposium on Farmland Access in the 21st Century at UC Berkeley will delve into the historical context, long-term implications and economic impact and stewardship potential of this impending transition.

May: On May 3 The Greenhorns is hosting Farmland Seekers to provide technical assistance around land and capital access and transition. Attendees will learn essential tools for building and navigating relationships with lenders, investors, landowners, partners, boards, conservation organizations, neighbors and more!

Click here to find out more about our Resource Partners! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more news about upcoming events and conferences!

Growing Change — Farmer Veteran Coalition

From serving the nation in the military to serving the nation food and fiber, many U.S. veterans are returning from combat to jobs in agriculture. Farming—with its taxing schedule and intense physical labor demands—is a good fit for such a hardworking and dedicated group.

Today, there are over 23 million veterans in the United States. Agriculture can provide an important source of income for veterans, particularly at a time when unemployment rates have skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, throughout 2012 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent—compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Particularly hard hit are female post-9/11 veterans with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. All in all, there are more than 200,000 unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in this country.

That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) comes in. Their mission is to mobilize veterans to work in sustainable farming jobs, creating a smooth transition into civilian life. Michael O’Gorman founded the organization and is its current leader, with 40-plus years under his belt as an organic farmer. He started FVC because of two converging trends: the aging farmer population in the U.S., and the high unemployment rate of veterans. Helping recent veterans find farming jobs hit the two issues with one stone, and FVC was created in 2008. The organization has taken off and now works with 1,000 veterans in 48 states.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

Tia Christopher is chief of staff at FVC. She says that while some of the organization’s veterans grew up on farms or have an agricultural connection, this is not universally the case. “Some of them get a brilliant idea that they want to be farmers, even though they have no experience whatsoever,” she says. They come from different professional backgrounds, geographic locations and military experiences. FVC finds a unique opportunity for each returning veteran through one of its many programs.

FVC is chock full of programming, from farm retreats, to financial planning and business courses, to a small grants program that helps aspiring farmer veterans build up their initial infrastructure. Another FVC program is the farm equipment exchange and donation program, or FEED, where individuals or dealers can donate used or new farm equipment to the organization. This equipment is given to disabled or financially challenged veteran farmers.

The FVC staff members represent all of the military branches (except for the Coast Guard). Being veterans themselves makes the organization’s work personal. “For us as veterans they’re our peers, they’re our brothers and sisters and so we really care about the people who contact us,” Tia says. This dedication and passion shows with each and every veteran they help.

One veteran in particular who stands out for Tia is Mickey Clayton, a single mother who is half Lakota Indian and half Puerto Rican. She is also an Army combat veteran who sustained a severe leg injury in Iraq. Having grown up on a South Dakota reservation among sheep, Mickey became mesmerized by the nomadic Awassi sheepherders in Iraq. Upon returning home, she decided to start a farm with FVC’s help. Now Mickey raises unusual breeds—that garner higher prices—like Navajo-Churro Sheep and Muscovy Ducks on Dot Ranch in Northwestern Oregon. She is one of FVC’s Bob Woodruff Farming Fellows, a program that has helped her secure adaptive farming equipment, making it possible for her to wrangle sheep even with her injury. And if being a single mother and raising all of those breeds wasn’t enough, Mickey also has a successful Etsy business selling her wool.

With Dot Ranch thriving, Mickey is now able to give back. She’s an ambassador for the FVC at Native American sheepherder events, and has ushered other vets into the FVC family. Tia says giving back like this demonstrates the program’s success. “Success for us honestly is when the veterans are able to mentor their peers, employ their peers, and pay it forward.”

The FVC has a strong connection to Farm Aid’s work of supporting the family farmer. Farm Aid was one of FVC’s earliest supporters, granting them $17,000 since 2009 to support their programming, most recently supporting their work training more than 100 veterans in farming skills, offering business planning to 31 veterans, and helping veterans secure legal counseling and disaster assistance in times of crisis. But that’s not all; Farmer Veteran Coalition has a huge presence at the Farm Aid concert each year, as part of the farmer meetings that take place before the concert and as part of the HOMEGROWN Village at the concert. FVC brings farmer veterans to Farm Aid from across the country to network with other farmers and spread the mission of the organization. Tia finds the jovial spirit of the Farm Aid concert conducive for recruiting would-be veteran farmers. “It’s really cool because we get awesome mentors and farmers to sign on with us when we’re at Farm Aid each year,” she says. Last year they recruited a veteran mushroom farmer and an entomologist.

Tia and her colleagues see the importance of the work they do everyday—not only finding employment for veterans, but also encouraging them to keep their spirits up and put their strong sense of service to use. Each and every farmer veteran motivates and inspires Tia. “It is often stated that farming and the military are two of the hardest professions; at FVC we believe that it takes a special type of person to do either, let alone both. I think the quality that’s most important for both is determination, and our farmer veterans have it in droves.” Helping military heroes and growing new farmers makes the Farmer Veteran Coalition a true Farmer Resource Network provider hero!

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Photo above provided courtesy of Jim Carroll Photography.