Are You Counted? USDA Extends Ag Census Deadline

It’s not too late to be counted in the U.S. Census of Agriculture!

Farmers and ranchers across the country are heeding the call to have their voices heard and their farms represented in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. With 1.4 million Census forms returned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thanks everyone for speaking up by sending in their Census form.

For those who missed the deadline, USDA reminds producers that their farm is important and needs to be counted. As a result, Census forms are still being accepted.

Farmers and ranchers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential. Anyone with over $1,000 in ag sales in 2012 is considered a farmer for the Census of Agriculture.

*Those that didn’t receive a questionnaire in the mail should sign up at the same site by March 31 and USDA will send them a questionnaire.

USDA Farm To School Grant Program Announced

Earlier this month, USDA announced the Farm to School Grant Program. The purpose of the program is to assist in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

Farmers and ranchers are eligible for certain categories of grant awards. In this funding round, USDA is soliciting applications for three types of grants:

  1. Planning grants are intended for school districts or schools just starting to incorporate farm to school program elements into their operations.
  2. Implementation grants are intended for school districts or schools to help scale or further develop existing farm to school initiatives.
  3. Support Service grants are intended for state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers, and non-profit entities working with school districts or schools to further develop existing farm to school initiatives and to provide broad reaching support services to farm to school initiatives.

Proposals are due at midnight EST, April 24, 2013. In all cases, a 25% cash or in-kind match of the total project cost is required.

For all questions pertaining to the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, please email: farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov.

  • An upcoming webinar for those interested in learning more about the Support Service Grants will be held Thursday, March 7, 1:00 p.m. EST. Both an Internet connection and telephone line are required to see and hear the webinar.
  • Access the webinar by clicking here.
  • Phone: 888-396-9185 Passcode: 3927574

New Guides for Organic Operations

To describe the relevant organic requirements, provide best practices, and further explain the certification process for certified organic farmers, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has partnered with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to provide the following detailed guides:

These guides provide helpful information for both beginning farmers and current organic operations looking to adopt new management approaches. Digital downloads of all guides are free, and print versions are $3.00.

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/.

The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac from The Greenhorns

The Greenhorns have released The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac, full of “advice and entertainment for those dealing practically with the unknown.” Written for new and young farmers working to build a more sustainable food system, the almanac includes more than 300 pages of essays by young agrarians, useful illustrations, historical excerpts, lunar information, poems, and more. An ‘audio almanac’ of worksongs, farm lectures, interviews and other content accompanies the hard copy.

Order The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac using Etsy, Paypal, or by sending a check or money order. The almanac will also be available at farmer conferences, feed stores, and independent bookshops. For information about bulk ordering, email audrey@thegreenhorns.net.

The Greenhorns’ mission is to promote, recruit and support the growing movement of new and sustainable farmers in the country. Learn more at www.thegreenhorns.net.

New Organic Certification Guides from ATTRA

Earlier this year, USDA launched its new Organic Literacy Initiative, an effort to help connect current and prospective organic farmers, ranchers, and processors with the USDA resources available to them.

As part of this initiative, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has partnered with the National Organic Program (NOP) on four new guides with detailed information about organic certification.  They include information about organic requirements and best practices, and also further explain the certification process:

The guides can be downloaded for free or ordered as a paper publication for a small handling fee either at the links above or on the ATTRA website.

Hispanic & Women’s Discrimination Claims Process Now Open

The claims process for Hispanic & women farmers and ranchers claiming discriminatory FSA practices is now open. Farmers who faced discriminatory denials of farm loans or service assistance by the USDA between 1981 and 2000 can file their claims through March 25, 2013. This voluntary claims process offers an alternative to litigation and requires no fees or legal representation. At least $1.33 billion will be made available for awards and payments, and an additional $160 million will be available in farm debt relief to eligible farmers and ranchers. To register for a claims package, call 1-888-508-4429 or visit www.farmerclaims.gov.

Farm Aid’s partner, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives released Tips for Completing Claims Form for Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers to assist farmers in the claims process. The guide provides in-depth explanations of each question on the USDA claims form and step-by-step instructions for how to answer and file properly. For direct assistance from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, contact John Zippert, Director of Programs, at 205.652.9676 (johnzippert@federation.coop) or Mircha King, Lawsuit Legal Coordinator, at 800.503.5678 (mirchaking@federation.coop).

Another Farm Aid partner, the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) will host a free webinar on January 8, 2013 at 11 AM EST/10 AM Central Time to address questions about eligibility and offer assistance in filing claims. Representatives from the Farmers Legal Action Group and Rural Coalition/Coalicion Rural will be presenting. The public is invited to log-in here, or access the archived webinar through WFAN after the event.

 

Learn to Farm at The Farm School

The Farm School in Athol, MA, is currently accepting applications for the 2013-2014 Learn to Farm Program Year. Prospective farmers seeking a curriculum-based agriculture immersion program should consider a year at The Farm School.

The Farm School’s Learn to Farm program offers a full year of full-time agriculture education through holistic and practical coursework and farm work in organic field crop production and management, animal husbandry, forestry, practical skills, homesteading and marketing, in addition to growing food for their 175-member vegetable and 50-member meat CSA, farmers market and managing 150 acres of forest land.

For more information and to apply visit the Learn to Farm webpage. Be sure to visit current student, and photojournalist, Erik Jacobs’s blog, The Plough & Stars Project, a yearlong chronicle in words and photos of living and learning at The Farm School.

Free Webinar: “Understanding Whole-Farm Insurance for Specialized, Diversified, and Organic Farms,” Presented by NCAT

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will present a free, hour-long webinar on Thursday, November 29th at 1 pm EST, providing guidance for farmers and other professionals on the Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGR-Lite) crop insurance program and its potential to serve small-scale, diverse, specialty crop, organic and direct-market farmers.

AGR-Lite is a unique type of federally subsidized crop insurance that is based on whole-farm revenue, rather than a specific crop or commodity. With AGR-Lite, farmers of diverse operations, specialty and high-value or organic crops and livestock can insure based on their farm’s historic revenue.

The webinar will also introduce NCAT’s new AGR-Lite Wizard assessment tool, which assists farmers in determining how whole-farm insurance can benefit their operation. The tool is available at www.agrlitewizard.com or by calling 1-800-346-9140.

Organic Farming Research Foundation Accepting Grant Proposals

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with Seed Matters, is now accepting grant proposals for research or education and outreach projects in organic seed quality or crop breeding innovation through November 19, 2012.

OFRF will consider funding for research projects in topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Systems approaches to managing seed-borne diseases;
  • Developing seed treatments compliant with the organic standards;
  • Participatory plant breeding activities;
  • Developing strategies for maintaining integrity of organic seed.

Education and outreach proposals will be accepted for the development of interactive educational materials, activities and media for:

  • Effective seed treatments allowable under the organic standards;
  • Maintaining seed quality during processing and handling;
  • Small-scale seed harvesting, drying, and processing methods;
  • On-farm or participatory breeding and selection methods.

Grant applicants in Canada, Mexico and the United States are eligible for funding up to $15,000.00. Proposals may be submitted online, and funding decisions will be made in March 2013. For guidance in writing and submitting your proposal, contact OFRF at grants@ofrf.org, or (831) 426-6606.