Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Management Tips for Beef Cattle Operations

Summer is upon us, and now is a good time to review a few management ideas for beef cattle operations.

If limited hay supplies are a concern, consider trying to bale and ammoniate wheat straw. While it won’t turn straw into alfalfa quality feed, ammoniation will improve the digestibility of straw. When properly used in conjunction with other feedstuffs, ammoniated wheat straw can help stretch limited forage supplies.

Bale and cover the straw as soon as possible after harvest. Apply anhydrous ammonia at the rate of 60 pounds of ammonia per ton of dry straw. Use proper precautions when handling anhydrous ammonia. Analyze the ammoniated straw and other feedstuffs for nutrient content so proper supplementation programs can be developed.

Assess pastures for weed control needs. Apply appropriate control measures for the weeds present and consider re-seeding with cool-season grasses in late summer or early fall if grass stands are thin.

If pasture availability becomes limited, begin reducing animal numbers. Start with old, open and ornery cows. If forage demand still needs to be reduced, consider early weaning the calves. The cost of feeding the calves must be considered, but don’t assume calves can’t be early weaned due to high feed costs without weighing all the costs and benefits.

Heat stress is always a concern in the summer months in Missouri. Researchers at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) at Clay Center, NE have information on their web site concerning heat stress in beef cattle. Detailed information is available by clicking on various heat stress topics, including heat stress forecast maps. These maps are made using the seven day forecasts of four weather parameters (temperature, humidity, wind speed, and cloud cover) from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - National Weather Service (NWS). Heat stress forecasts for up to 7 days are available.  This might be useful when planning livestock work during the summer months.

If you have questions on these or other livestock issues, please contact one of the regional livestock specialists or your local MU Extension Center.

(by Gene Schmitz, MU Extension Livestock Specialist)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cover Crops and Insuring the Following Crops

cereal rye and
hairy vetch mix
USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) has issued Cover Crops, a new two-page fact sheet that helps to resolve confusion over allowable deadlines for termination of cover crops to qualify the subsequent crop in the field for crop insurance.

What is a cover crop? For insurance purposes, a cover crop is a crop generally recognized by agricultural experts as agronomically sound for the area for erosion control or other purposes related to conservation or soil improvement.

Can I insure a crop following a cover crop? Yes, you may if you meet certain conditions for terminating the cover crop. You must terminate the cover crop before the deadline listed in the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland. If you do not terminate the cover crop your commercial crop may be considered double cropped. If the double cropping practice is not available in your county, your commercial crop may not be insurable.

RMA is revising its procedures for cover crops and the deadline for terminating cover crops. The deadlines are located in NRCS’ Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland.

These guidelines also include allowances for weather conditions, local climate, and topography, as well as advances in cover crop technology. More guidance for cover crops can be found in RMA’s Special Provisions of Insurance for Cover Crops. We expect these new procedures to be in place starting in the fall of 2013 for the 2014 crop year. Termination of cover crops that are used in an irrigated cropping system are not restricted to a given cover crop termination zone. The cover crop should be terminated based on the crop system and conservation, but before the planted crop emerges.

Why should I plant a cover crop? USDA has developed the best and most comprehensive guidance possible for cover crops. RMA, NRCS, and Farm Service Agency (FSA) cover crop experts were involved in an interagency cover crop workgroup to develop cover crop management guidelines across the U.S. NRCS has used information from the workgroup, technical literature available, and experts’ knowledge of national and local cover crop systems to develop cover crop management guidelines.

If you plant cover crops you may improve:
·         Soil quality
·         Nutrient cycling
·         Nitrogen production
·         Erosion control
·         Weed management
·         Soil water availability
Federal crop insurance policies now use the NRCS guidelines for cover crop farming practices.

How do I find the deadlines for terminating my cover crop? The timing of cover crop termination is critical in areas where poor timing of termination uses soil water that is vital for commercial crop growth and yield. However, the specific date and stage of growth requirements that were in RMA procedures led to some acreage losing coverage in years where weather may have blocked your effort to either terminate or harvest the cover crop in time to qualify for insurance coverage. RMA termination requirements also may not have allowed you to gain the full conservation benefits of the cover crop practice you were using.

Recognizing the advances and added benefits of cover crop practices, and trying to provide more flexibility in the face of changing conditions, RMA revised its cover crop procedures by employing new guidelines. Now, you will determine the recommended termination time for a cover crop by using the NRCS Cover Crop Termination Guidelines for Non-Irrigated Cropland. You can also find more information about cover crops and commercial crop insurability in your county Special Provisions.  Once you reach the site, click on the drop down menus in order to choose the year, your crop, your state, and your county. All relevant information for your crop, including information on cover crops, is available.

How does it work? The new guidelines provide recommended termination periods for cover crops to achieve conservation benefits and to minimize risk of yield reduction in the following crop due to soil water use. Four cover crop termination zones were established across the United States to identify the proper cover crop management due to variability in climate and cropping systems in those areas. For example, it recommends that farmers in:
·    Zone 1 (largely arid to semi-arid regions in the Western US) terminate cover crops 35 days or earlier before planting their main crop;
·    Zone 2, moving to the east, recommends 15 days or earlier before planting;
·    Zone 3 recommends on or before planting;
·    Zone 4 covering a large portion of the Eastern U.S., recommends at planting or within 5 days after planting, but before crop emergence.

Can I use grazing as a form of terminating the crop? No, grazing is not considered terminating the cover crop.

Where to Buy Crop Insurance All multi-peril crop insurance, including Catastrophic Risk Protection policies, are available from private insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA service centers and on the RMA web site at

Contact Us USDA/RMA, Mail Stop 0801 1400 Independence Ave., SW Washington, DC 20250, (202) 690-2803,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Researchers, plant scientists and horticulturists from the University of Missouri showcased their work on a little berry that is making big news among health researchers during the first International Elderberry Symposium held recently in Columbia.

At the six-day event, symposium participants got a peek into what the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates called his “medicine chest of the country people.” Folk healers have used the berry’s products to treat colds, flu, arthritis and other diseases since 400 B.C.

MU researchers are looking at it to prevent and treat prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. High in antioxidants, potassium and vitamins A, B and C, the purple juice has been touted to reduce cholesterol levels and boost the immune system.

The group visited Eridu Farms in addition to MU research centers, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, and Nature’s Organic Haven and Stone Hill Winery, both of Hermann, as part of the event.

In conjunction with MU Extension and USDA, Eridu Farms owner Terry Durham works with about 100 other elderberry producers across the Midwest to produce and market juice, jelly and other products. The berry is used in wine, dietary supplements and food products such as pies and muffins.

Due to research and grower initiatives, Missouri is emerging as a national leader in elderberry development and production, Durham said, noting that in the last three years the largest acreage of improved elderberry has been developed here in the state.

The elderberry plant is a perennial with showy flat cymes of white, fragrant flowers that usually bloom in June. The flowers turn to umbrella-like clusters of tiny purple to black berries in late summer. The leaves are toxic. Durham’s bushes grow 4 feet apart in drip-irrigated sunny areas.

The berries must be handpicked and the labor-intensive process generally limits acreages to small plots.

Durham has grown elderberries since 2004 on 37 acres at Eridu Farms and 15 acres on the adjacent Waters Farm. There are about 200 acres of land planted in elderberry in the state, and Durham sees that number increasing as more farmers turn to growing the National Herb Society’s 2013 Plant of the Year.

Symposium coordinator Andrew Thomas, research assistant professor of plant sciences, has been cultivating elderberries at the MU Southwest Research Center for 14 years.

“Elderberry is an understudied and neglected crop,” Thomas said. “When you look at its antioxidant content it’s nearly off the charts.” He said the elderberry symposium brought together scientists and growers from across the world.

Dennis Lubahn, professor of biochemistry and director of the MU Center for Botanical Interaction Studies, is investigating the elderberry’s potential to fight prostate cancer. Presenting his most recent research at the symposium, Lubahn said preliminary tests show promise that elderberry in high concentrations can inhibit hedgehog signaling, a biochemical process linked to cancer.

Britta Bush of Italy’s Berry Pharma was one of the many international attendees at the symposium. She said she was impressed by MU’s research and development on the elderberry. She said commercial development of the elderberry in Europe is comparable to the U.S.’s strawberry and blueberry marketing. She said Europe serves the food and medical markets on a much higher level than the U.S., which is just beginning to develop its markets.

James Quinn, MU Extension regional horticulturist, said the international interest in elderberries brought European and U.S. growers together to discuss the similarities and differences between the markets. He said the wine industry has an increasing demand for elderberries that is currently not being met.

The National Institutes of Health provides MU with a grant to research the medicinal benefits of the elderberry.
(by Linda Geist, MU Writer)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Assortment of Upcoming Workshops

Here are a few upcoming activities that Missouri State University is offering.

Planning a Fall Garden Workshop

7:00 – 8:00pm, Friday, June 28, 2013 at the Pavilion, Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Mountain Grove. 

$5.00 registration fee for materials – you can pay at the door but please let us know you are coming so we can prepare your handouts.

This workshop will cover which plants can be grown late in the season and when to start your seeds so you have plants available in fall. Although vegetable crops will be highlighted, some ornamentals like flowering kale and pansies will also be discussed. Topics include the challenges of starting seeds in outdoors in hot weather, in protected locations, and under lights indoors. Participants will do some hands-on seed sowing to get a good jump on their fall gardens.

MSU Wine Premiere – Open House

Come as you are anytime between 4:00 – 8:00pm, Thursday, July 18, 2013 at Faurot Hall, Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Mountain Grove.

Free and open to the public.  This event will showcase 2012 Vintage Wines along with Missouri State University Agriculture Graduate Student research projects and photographs of local artist and grape grower, Joyce McMurtrey. 

Home Grape Growing Dinner Workshop

5:00 – 8:00pm, Tuesday, July 23, 2013 at the Faurot Hall and Demonstration Garden, Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Mountain Grove.  Marilyn Odneal, Horticulture Outreach Advisor and Vicki Baumer, graduate student and OTC instructor, will present information about growing grapes for home use.

5:00pm              Introduction to Missouri Grapes and Recommended Cultivars along with dinner catered by Flavored with Thyme
6:00                    General Grape Culture
6:30                    Grape Pests: Signs, Symptoms and Solutions
7:15 - 8:00pm    Check out the Demonstration Vineyard
*Feel free to bring in your grape samples of pest or disease.

$15.00 registration fee for dinner and materials – please register by Friday, July 19.

The registration form can be mailed with your check or call 417-547-7533 or 417-547-7500 to register with your credit card.

For registration information on any of these workshops, please contact Pamela Mayer or call 417-547-7533 or 417-547-7500 (main number).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tools to Choose the Right Solar-energy System

Before investing in a solar-power system, look at the energy efficiency of your home, says a University of Missouri Extension energy specialist.

“I’d want to do an energy audit,” Don Day says. “Plug the leaks and think about your habits in regards to using energy. Be sure your energy use is as efficient as it can be, and then we can start thinking about alternative energy.”

Next, consider how much energy you want to replace with solar.

“Some people want to be off the grid and try to generate all of it,” Day says. “That’s going to have more challenges. They’ll need to have a battery system. Some people want to be connected to the grid and there are rules and regulations that have to be worked out with the utility company.”

Calculating your total energy use and deciding the amount of energy you want to generate is a big part of choosing a solar-energy system.

Day says there are tools and resources to help you decide what kind of system might fit your needs and budget.

One resource is the National Renewable Energy Lab, Day says. “NREL has some tools and programs that provide information on different possible systems. We can choose a size of solar-energy system and it will tell us what the energy potential is, an estimate of the cost and then how much payback we could see.”

Homeowners may be able to recoup a portion of the up-front costs with a 30 percent federal tax credit, and some municipalities offer incentives such as low-interest loans and rebates.

MU Extension is currently adapting some materials from Montana for Missouri, including worksheets that help calculate the total cost of a system, expected savings and other factors that can affect the cost.

For more information, contact your local MU Extension center or click here for MU Energy resources.
(By Jason Vance, MU Extension Writer)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Find Local, In-season Produce with New App from MU Extension

Here's a great tool you might want to download onto your smart phone and share with your customers as they are considering making a purchase from you.  It just might make the sale!
Finding fresh, locally grown produce can be at your fingertips when you are traveling in Missouri this summer.

Seasonal and Simple is a free iPhone, iPad and Android app developed through University of Missouri Extension. Based on the MU Extension publication “Seasonal and Simple,” the app guides you through selecting, preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Missouri, according to dietitian and MU Extension associate Cindy DeBlauw.

Through Seasonal and Simple, you can check if your favorite produce is in season. If you’re on the road, a county-by-county listing of Missouri farmers markets will help you find a place to shop for fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables. The app includes recipes and nutrition information for each of the fruits and vegetables that are listed.

To download the free application, click here.

The application was created through a collaboration of MU faculty, staff and students from Human Environmental Sciences Extension, the Missouri School of Journalism and the College of Engineering.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Season Extension Online Resources

With consumer interest in locally raised foods steadily growing, vegetable farmers are discovering they can add an important income stream through high tunnels - a cost effective means to extend the production and sales into the traditional off-season.

Now, in-depth information about high tunnels can be found in SARE's new Season Extension Topic Room - a one-stop shop collection of dozens of guidebooks, curricula, webinars, bulletins, and other how-to materials to help farmers, educators, and researchers across the country implement effective season extension strategies.

Information products in the Season Extension Topic Room derive from SARE-funded grant projects and are organized according to key topic areas:   Overview, types and construction, variety trials and selections, fertility management, pest management, water management, energy, and marketing/economics.

While the Season Extension Topic Room includes extensive information on high tunnels (also known as hoop houses), some materials also address greenhouse and nursery production, low tunnels, and winter storage.

The Season Extension Topic Room will be updated with new resources as they become available, so check back often.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Advanced Biofuel Payment Program

The purpose of the USDA's Advanced Biofuels Program is to support and ensure expanding production of biofuels by providing payments to farmers or companies that produce and sell biofuels from anything other than corn kernel starch. If your farm produces biofuels from crop residue, animal, food and yard waste, vegetable oils, and/or animal fat, apply by July 11 to be eligible to receive funds in the 2013 fiscal year. To apply, contact your state's Rural Development Energy Coordinator here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How much is a bale of hay worth?

As costs have risen for fertilizer, fuel, twine, and net wrap, many producers are asking, “How much is it costing me to wrap a bale of hay this year?” or “How much should I charge when I sell a large round bale of hay?”

To answer these questions, let’s first look at the fertilizer costs in a bale of hay. Fertilizer value of nutrients contained in a bale of hay should be considered when pricing hay to sell or determining costs per bale or per acre. The large price increases in commercial fertilizer should be offset by an increase in hay prices.

Another thing to remember is not all hay is created equal when it comes to the quantity of nutrients per ton or bale of dry matter. Hay differs in nutrient content due to species, yield, growing conditions including soil fertility, haying conditions, and maturity when cut. A large round bale of hay that has been fertilized, cut and baled at the correct stage of maturity is worth much more than hay cut after it has matured and has low digestibility. According to research data for our Forage Systems Research Center in Linneus, MO, a 1,200 pound round bale of grass hay removes $29.22 worth of nutrients from your hay field that you will have to replace. This is based on current nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium prices. Another way to look at it, you have removed 50-70 pounds of N, P, & K per large bale from your field!

Another cost increase has been the fuel. As farm diesel approaches $3.45 per gallon, how does that affect the price of a large round bale of hay? The following rates are average costs from custom operators in the state of Missouri.

Round Bale (net) 11.50
Wheel Rake 2.25
Rotary (disc) mower 5.45
Subtotal $19.20

In summary, you must look at increased forage machinery costs including fuel, and more fertilizer costs due to nutrients being removed when harvesting the hay. This amounts to a little over $48.00 of costs per 1200 #large round bale of grass hay. Yes, it is going to be more expensive to bale hay or buy hay this year due to increased fertilizer and machinery costs.
(By John Hobbs, MU Ag and Rural Development Specialist)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Goat and Sheep Parasite Workshop - June 20

A “Sheep and Goat Parasite Workshop” is scheduled for 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday, June 20, at the Bond Agricultural Building, 2401 S. Kansas Expressway, Springfield, Mo.

"If you want to check your sheep or goats for fecal egg counts, you can learn how at this workshop," said Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension.

Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, state small ruminant specialist with Lincoln University, and Dr. Beth Walker, associate professor at Missouri State University, will conduct the workshop

Producers may bring a fecal sample for the fecal egg count demonstration if they want their animal or animals checked for worms. Dr. Clifford-Rathert will explain how to conduct fecal egg counts and how to check for FAMACHA scores.

Worms are the primary internal parasite of small ruminants and remain one of the biggest problems of meat and dairy goats.

“Internal parasites also can be a problem in sheep but not to the same extent as goats,” said Clifford-Rathert. “In order to control worms, you must set up a deworming and sanitation program and stick to it.”

Worms not only kill both young and old goats, they contribute to poor growth rates, an unthrifty appearance, coughing, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, bottle jaw.

David Burton, county program director for Greene County Extension, says the local council is happy to be able to support this type of workshop. “This is a needed workshop considering the growing area interest in goats and sheep,” said Burton. “There should be something for everyone who has in interest in controlling internal parasites in sheep and goats, whether hair or wool sheep and dairy or meat goats.”

Pre-registration is needed by June 17 but anyone can attend. The cost is $5 per person to cover workshop materials and snacks. The FAMACHA eye chart is an additional $15 per chart.

For more information or to pre-register, email  or call 417-327-6611.
(by David Burton, MU Civic Communications Specialist)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bobwhite Quail and Native Pollinator Field Day - June 20

The University of Missouri Bobwhite Quail and Native Pollinator Field Day is for June 20.

  • What: Bobwhite Quail and Native Pollinator Field Day
  • When: Thursday, June 20, 1-7 p.m.
  • Where: MU Bradford Research Center, about 6 miles east of Columbia at 4968 Rangeline Road.
  • Cost: Free. No reservations required.
  • Description: An opportunity for landowners, students, and bobwhite quail and native plant enthusiasts to meet the experts, see exhibits and learn about bobwhite habitat and native pollinators through indoor sessions, field demonstrations, and walking and wagon tours. Wildlife biologists will be available to help landowners develop a custom wildlife habitat plan tailored to their property.
  • For more information: Contact Bob Pierce at 573-882-4337 or  For driving directions click here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Missouri Vegetable Growers Association Farm Tour - June 18th

Join the Missouri Vegetable Growers Association's Springfield Summer Tour on June 18th.  If you're interested in lunch and dinner be sure to RSVP to Curtis Millsap by June 16th.

8:45-10:00 am Urban Roots Farm
All tour participants should plan to meet at this farm and can arrange carpooling to the other farm locations. Urban Roots features moveable high tunnels with intensive, small scale, urban farming on a one acre lot.
823 West State Street, Springfield MO 65806, Adam and Melissa Millsap, 417-848-8877,,

10:15-11:30 am Fassnight Creek Farm is another urban farm, located on 15 acres in the center of Springfield. Dan has 27 years of experience farming on this truly unique veggie farm where he grows most any veggie you’ve ever wanted to eat.
1366 South Fort Ave. Springfield MO 65807, Dan and Kelly Bigby, 417-866-5011, (Kelly's e-mail, as Dan doesn't do the internet).

11:30-12:30 pm Farmers Market of the Ozarks
Check out the vendors at this mid-week market, and see the new market pavilion, scheduled to open this summer.
4139 S Nature Center Way, Springfield, MO. Lane McConnell Manager, 417-766-8711,,

12:45- 3:30 pm Sunshine Valley Farm
This is a great orchard, berry patch, veggie farm, and café, with 24 years of experience, and a great track record of innovation. The farm is a great example of agri-tourism.
8125 E State Highway AD Rogersville, MO 65742, Jan and Mike Wooten, 417-753-2698,,

Lunch highlighting produce from the farm, will be provided by Jan at the farm. Cost for lunch is $9.75 per person (includes sandwich, chips, drink & dessert), plus tax. Please RSVP to Curtis Millsap by June 16th.

4pm - ??? Millsap Farms
Millsap will be having their weekly CSA pickup this afternoon from 4-6pm. This will give tour attendees the chance to see a CSA pick up site in action, the Chinese Earth berm high tunnel, and 2 acres of intensive vegetable production.
6593 North Emu Lane, Springfield MO, 65803, Curtis and Sarah Millsap, 417-839-0847,,

6 pm Wood oven fired pizza, salad & drinks for dinner will be provided at the Millsap farm. Cost for dinner is $10/ adults, $4/ children under 12 with a $2/person discount for MVGA members. Please RSVP to Curtis Millsap by June 16th.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goat Silvopasture

A donkey guards baby goats.
The best way to protect woodlands from invasive plant species turns out to have four legs, an insatiable appetite and a very low environmental impact, according to a local scientist’s findings.

Since fall 2011, Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, DVM, an assistant professor at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, has been studying the use of goats to restore native vegetation in woodlands at the school’s 280-acre Busby Farm, Missouri’s largest organic research farm. She has found this system is beneficial for the goats and the land.

“This is a perfect place for goats,” Clifford-Rathert said. “Instead of mechanically [or chemically] clearing you can use goats for less of an impact on the environment. I’m really anxious for the next two years to show, ‘See? it really does work.’”

To conduct the three-year study, Clifford-Rathert partitioned off six seven-acre paddocks of the farm’s woodlands; three are occupied by goats. The goats munch on invasive species such as multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle, leaving the forest floor weed-free and able to regrow native plants. 

Clifford-Rathert and her team of two graduate students move goats from acre to acre every four to seven days and study the effects the goats have on the woodlands.

Researchers observe the land and goats closely, monitoring weight gain, intestinal parasites in the goats and soil fertility and compaction. The grazing has cleaned up the forest floor, seriously diminishing invasive plants, and the goats have far less parasites than if they had been grazing traditionally, Clifford-Rathert said.

Learning about the effects of woodland grazing has several benefits, she said. Farmers can make money on a wood crop by making their woodlands usable. Clifford-Rathert said farmers could get a good wood crop every 10 to 15 years, with an annual meat crop in between, when utilizing this agroforestry practice.

“It’s frustrating to me that people have woodlands but aren’t using them,” she said.

Cleaning up woodlands also diminishes the risk for forest fires, Clifford-Rathert said.

She said the U.S. Department of Agriculture was interested in her research because it could provide solutions to forest fire problems.

“If that stuff is all gone, there’s no fuel to the fire,” she said. In addition to benefitting farmers and providing a fix for forest fires, woodland grazing restores the woods to their natural state. Clifford-Rathert said she’s become very excited about the work she’s doing at Busby Farm.

“It’s my passion; it’s really become what I get up in the morning to do,” she said. “I see the potential, one year later, two years later, three years later. I can’t wait for it.”
(By Katie Moritz, MU Center for Agroforestry Intern)


Monday, June 10, 2013

Five Things Your Customer May Never Tell You

You see her every week. A great customer, loyal and regular. Then a couple weeks go by and you realize that you haven’t seen her at your stall recently. Or you glance across the isle and notice her at someone else’s stall and carrying some bags. Or you notice that she comes by often and looks around but never quite gets around to purchasing anything. Hmmm…what could these behaviors mean?

While some customers are very good at communicating, most of us prefer to avoid awkward, uncomfortable and/or confrontational situations whenever possible. So you might find yourself in the position of having to read minds.

Here are 5 things customers might be reluctant to share:

1.              I don’t know what this is! No one wants to appear ignorant so most customers will never bring the celeriac (or kohlrabi or blood sausage or ??) over and say ‘what in the world is this?’ If you want to sell these items you need to have a label stating the name clearly (a guide to pronunciation helps too) and a short description of what to use it for, what it tastes like and what other foods pair well with it.

2.              I found a better product somewhere else. Quality always matters and customers generally do not like to give you bad news. What you are likely to observe is reduced repeat sales. What can you do? Post a ‘money-back guarantee prominently so customers know that you want to hear when a product is not meeting their expectations. Remind customers that you want to hear feedback. And when you do get feedback resist the temptation to be defensive. Provide a suggestion box so people can comment anonymously.

3.              Your product tasted/smelled/looked funny when I finally got around to trying it.

This is another tricky situation. Some customers will return a product and try to get a refund but other customers will just throw the product away and say nothing. You may never know there was a problem. A bad experience could be the result of spoilage or it could be that the customer was not prepared for what to expect.  The best strategy is to provide use and care instructions. Have a binder available that provides basic information like how to store the product, what parts are edible and how long it will keep.

4.              I can’t spend money on an expensive item for just one recipe. Many people are living on reduced incomes and they may have less disposable income to spend on food. If they perceive that an item is a specialty item they may choose to pass it by. As the vendor it will serve you well to try to promote multiple uses for your products. For example if you are selling sausage, a package may contain more servings than the customer needs so it’s a good idea to offer some tips on how to use leftovers. For example, ‘after breakfast brown up the remainder and freeze as a pizza topping or add to pasta sauce’.

5.              My financial situation has changed and I’m embarrassedBe tactful and observant. If a regular customer suddenly changes their buying habits it is fine to ask if they have experienced some problem with the product. If their answer is vague or they don’t respond just let it go. You provided an opportunity and the rest is up to them. Chances are that if sales stay strong among other customers it is not a product issue.

(by Mary Peabody, Director of Woman in Ag Network, University of Vermont)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Farm Bill is more than Just Farming

The Farm Bill is again in the news this year, since a bill was not passed last year. The current bill we are operating under is the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill). The five year law expired on September 30, 2012. Congress was unable and/or unwilling to pass another Farm Bill before the expiration date. On January 2, 2013, President Obama signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which extended authority of the 2008 Farm Bill. It was a simple one year extension that is set to expire September 30, 2013.

The history of similar farm legislation began in 1933, a few days after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated. Roosevelt called Congress into special session and introduced fifteen pieces of legislation, which included the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). The idea was to balance supply and demand to allow decent purchasing power for farmers. In 1937, the Supreme Court ruled AAA unconstitutional. Soon thereafter the basic program was rewritten and passed into law. Since then various “Farm Bills” have been passed to extend agricultural related legislation.

The contents of the Farm Bill have changed some through the years mainly to gain and maintain urban legislator support. Trying to determine the exact amount of the Farm Bill is challenging. It is quite easy to find the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget. The tough part is trying to extract out farm bill spending (mandatory by law), since there is additional mandatory spending (required through other laws) and discretionary (funds not designated by law) spending. The following content is from the 2012 USDA budget based on $145 billion. The following bar chart shows that 81% of the outlays are associated with mandatory spending (or $117 b) and 19% discretionary spending.

Most of the Farm Bill spending is for supplemental nutrition assistance spending (SNAP) (formerly called food stamps), commodity programs, crop insurance, conservation programs and energy. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates the food related programs. SNAP has over 45 million participants (2012) and funds of $75 b line itemed and an additional $11.9 b in Recovery Act funds, which likely are not part of the Farm Bill. The mandatory conservation programs administered through Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) include: Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wetlands Reserve, Conservation Security Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Farm and Ranch Lands Protection and others. Rural Development coordinates the mandatory funding for the energy pieces of the Farm Bill totaling about $178 m in 2012. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) supports delivery of farm credit, disaster assistance and commodity programs and some of the conservation programs. FSA also provides administrative support for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) which funds most of the commodity, export and some conservation programs. Risk Management Agency (RMA) has mandatory funds to coordinate the crop insurance program.

The largest mandatory outlay, not part of the Farm Bill is the school lunch program, which is about $80 million/day (includes subsidies for every lunch and breakfast served, whether free or fully paid).

Discretionary programs include: Special Supplemental Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Public Law 480 (mostly food sales/grants to developing countries), rural development loans and grants, research and education, soil & water conservation technical assistance, animal and plant health, management of national forests and a few other items.

Where is Extension in the tangled web called USDA budget? Extension is called National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) at the federal level. The mandatory funding (Farm Bill) totals $129 m, which is line itemed to six projects, the largest being Specialty Crop Research. The entire NIFA budget (mandatory plus discretionary) funding was $1.3 b, or 0.90% of the USDA budget.

In summary, there are many programs funded through the Farm Bill related to food, agricultural production, conservation and energy. It takes time to learn about the programs and how the funding works. The goal of the farm bill is to provide an abundant safe food supply and to make sure all people have access to adequate healthy foods. We will continue to hear much discussion as the next farm bill develops. Just remember whatever becomes law will affect our local areas.

(Sources: USDA FY 2012 Budget Summary and MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute [FAPRI])
by Mary Sobba, MU Extension Ag. Business Mgmt. Specialist

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Poultry Health and Management Workshop – June 17

Lincoln University’s Small Farm Outreach Program and DRUMM Farm Center for Children are jointly presenting a workshop on poultry health and management on June 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in Independence MO.

The workshop is for intermediate to experienced small farm poultry owners.  Bring your questions and concerns about your small poultry flock for the Poultry Forum.  If time permits or if there are enough people interested an optional video of Poultry Processing by SARE Grant recipient Kevin Backes will be presented after the presenters.

Speakers for the workshop include:

Jesse Lyons, University of Missouri Extension Specialist

Susan Jaster, Lincoln University Farm Outreach Worker, Ray & Lafayette Counties

Jeff Yearington, Lincoln University Farm Outreach Worker, Cass & Johnson Counties

Registration is free but please pre-register by calling 816-589-4725 or emailing, seating is limited!  Doors open @ 6:15 p.m.

The workshop will be held at the Drumm Farm Center for Children, 3210 S. Lee’s Summit Road,
Independence, MO 64055 in the Dining Hall.

Monday, June 3, 2013

TONIGHT - Sustaining Livestock Health webinar

Join the Missouri Beginning Farmers Program's monthly webinar this evening.
The June webinar "Sustaining Livestock Health" is scheduled from 7-8:30 pm and will be presented by Ann Wells, DVM.  Ann has a rich history of working directly with producers on finding sustainable and healthy ways to care for livestock.  Ann has also worked with ATTRA and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and can answer questions about what can and cannot be used in organic livestock production.  The animals species Ann will focus on are the ruminants, cattle, sheep and goats.
To join the webinar, go to and sign in with your name as a guest.