Upcoming webinar: Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Next Tuesday, August 4th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is hosting Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems, a free webinar to highlight organic livestock systems and their conservation benefits.

USDA staff will begin the webinar by describing organic management practices and regulations relevant to livestock, focusing on pasture and outdoor access, feed management, and pasture management. Next they’ll highlight conservation practices that can work well with organic livestock systems, such as rotational grazing, fencing, and pasture management.

During the webinar, New Hampshire farmer Steve Normanton will talk about his grass-fed beef farm and how he put NRCS conservation practices into action.

Pre-registration for the webinar is not required. Click here for more information and instructions on how to join.

OFRF 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers

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

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

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) is now conducting a national survey of organic farmers. OFRF will contact more than 13,000 certified organic farmers via email or postcard asking for their participation. (Or you can access the survey here.)

The survey is confidential and will ask organic farmers to list data such as their farm size, production methods, and — most importantly — information about organic farming opportunities and challenges. Results from the survey will identify critical issues for organic farmers, and will inform OFRF’s National Organic Research Agenda, which recommends research priorities for the USDA and other policymakers.

For more information, contact OFRF at (831) 426-6606 or visit their website.

Two Upcoming Organic Labeling Webinars

An organic spring bounty! Photo: © Patty O'Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com
An organic spring bounty! Photo: © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Navigating label claims and getting an organic certification can be both confusing and costly for producers. That’s why CCOF and Oregon Tilth have stepped in offering webinars that will cover the basics. Read below to find out about upcoming July webinars.

Details: July 07, 2015 12:00 PM PDT / 3:00 PM ET; Free; Register here.

  • CCOF’s webinar will cover how to develop labels that comply with the USDA’s National Organic Program and how to avoid costly mistakes and delays in product roll-out. Organic Education Solutions LLC — an educational company that helps processors, distributors, retailers and others with organic certification — will lead the webinar with discussion of product composition and percentage calculations, the correct use of CCOF and USDA “Organic” seals, ingredient listing, and the CCOF label approval process.

Details: July 16, 2015, 1:00pm – 3:00pm; $20; Register here.

Apply for the 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Photo: © Patty O'Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

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

The deadline is approaching for the 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers this program, which funds initiatives aimed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers. Individual are not eligible for this program. Groups like State Cooperative Extension Services, community based organizations, non-profits, and colleges and universities may apply for a grant to support educational courses, technical assistance programming, and outreach initiatives.

The deadline for applications is 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 13th.

Click here for more information about this program, and view the request for applications on NIFA’s website.

Enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program

Enrollment is now open for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program. Farmers and ranchers have until February 27th to submit applications for this year’s funding. The CSP is win for both farmers and the environment, as it gives farmers financial incentive to engage in conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming. According the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, since 2009, when the program began, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled. Learn more about the CSP at NSAC’s blog, and visit your local NRCS office to get the enrollment process started.

USDA’s Organic Farm Survey

The USDA is inventorying organic producers, certified and not, across the U.S. This information will help the agency track organic agriculture’s economic impact as well as trends and opportunities for organic products. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed substantial growth in the organic market—an increase of 83 percent since 2007.

Approximately 17,000 organic producers received the census in early January. Organic farmers are required by law to respond. Survey responses are due by mail by on February 13th or online by April 3rd.

Data collected from the survey will help boost organic producers’ needs. Results will help the government assess crop insurance programs for organic producers, determine funding and extension support for organics, and calculate disaster payments for producers.

Read more about the USDA’s organic producer survey and learn about the history and consequences of the survey from the National Sustainable Agriculture’s blog post.

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.

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

Drought: How to Prepare and Where to Find Help

Drought afflicted the Midwest and California in recent seasons and is likely to continue to impact farmers in these states as climate change becomes a more pressing agricultural concern.

When dealing with a drought or any natural disaster, one of the most valuable tools a farmer can implement is record keeping.  “Currently, government agencies, lenders and insurance companies are requiring better and more accurate records,” a publication from Pennsylvania State University’s Cooperative Extension describes. “Not only bushels per acre, income and expenses, but also weather records are becoming increasingly necessary.” South Dakota State University’s Cooperative Extension released the “Record Keeping in Farm Management” publication to explain the importance of record keeping, particularly during a drought. As the article explains, there’s very little that a farm can do to prepare for a drought, but thorough record keeping can improve a farm’s financial wellbeing. This publication comprehensively provides an overview of what careful record keeping should look like.

While record keeping and water management techniques can make a vast difference for a farmer facing drought, there are some online resources that can help.

Farm Aid Resource Guide

Farm Aid developed a Crisis Support Resource Guide that has a list of resources to guide farmers to educational resources during a time of crisis, which includes a natural disaster such as drought. These resources also dip into other relevant topics, such as where a farmer can turn when in need of legal advice or services.

Beginning Farmers LLC

The Beginning Farmers LLC compiled a list of online resources applicable to beginning and experienced farmers. These resources provide a look into the science behind drought and how to plan for its impact and manage the repercussions if drought hits. Beginning Farmers also encourages farmers facing drought to contact the organization for more resources.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

CDFA’s California Drought Information and Resources created a site with organizations and websites that can provide assistance to farmers facing drought. While some of these are state-based organizations, there are many resources available to farmers on a national scale. The site provides a list of USDA grant programs that may apply to farmers during a drought.

Click here for drought updates and more information on USDA assistance programs.