Friday, May 30, 2014

Alternative Agriculture Field Day

An Alternative Agriculture Field Day will be held at Lincoln University Busby Organic / Integrated Research Farm on June 4, 2014.  Registration begins at 1:00pm.  Guest Dinner Speaker will be George Kuepper, Sustainable Agriculture Specialist for the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Poteau, Oklahoma

Dinner will be at 6:00 pm which will feature Grass-fed Pulled Beef Sandwiches, Grass-fed Pulled Goat Sandwiches, Grass-fed Goat Bratwursts, Samples of native plant dishes.

Site 1: Hydroponic Fodder Sprouting (Chris Boeckmann, Organic Production Manager)
Mr. Boeckmann will explain the process used for the hydroponic sprouting of fodder grains. He will discuss the potential applications of hydroponic sprouting and their feasibility for Missouri livestock producers.

Site 2: Silvopasture (Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, State Extension Specialist- Small Ruminants)
Goats are used to eradicate and control invasive vegetation while creating a silvopasture in a Missouri Woodland. Dr. Charlotte's team will discuss the data collected, the positive impact seen so far, and different fencing options. 

Site 3-A: Composting (Dr. Hwei-Yiing Johnson, State Extension Specialist- Plant Science)
Several composting methods will be demonstrated: aerobic, vermicomposting, and Effective Microbes (EM) Bokashi. Compost tea brewing and compost use at Busby Farm will also be discussed.

Site 3-B: Selection for Parasite Resistance in Goats (Dr. Bruce Shanks, Assistant Professor, Animal Science)
Goats are increasingly popular with small landowners and fit well into forage-based systems. However, goats are susceptible to infection by internal parasites and the parasites are developing resistance to chemical de-wormers.  This research uses selective goat breeding to increase natural parasite resistance.

Site 4-A: Native Prairie and Woodland Restoration (Michael Tarka, Native Plants Program Research Technician)
Learn about the process of returning pasture/woodland to a more natural state. Discussion will include types of land and potential problems. 

Site 4-B: Native Plants (Amy Hempen, Native Plants Technician)
Tour the native plant gardens surrounding the youth cabins.

Site 5-A: Organic Blueberries (Dr. Zelalem Mersha, State Extension Specialist- Plant Pathology and    Nahshon Bishop, Small Farm Specialist)
Topics will include blueberry production in Missouri, popular cultivars, best management practices and some of the challenges of organic blueberry production. Dr. Mersha will discuss the ongoing research efforts to address phytophthora root rot using compost tea, gypsum, and raw milk.

Site 5-B: Integrated Pest Management: Biological Control and Invasive Insects (Dr. Roshan Manandhar, Post-Doctoral Fellow—Sustainable IPM Systems, and Ms. Kaitlyn Kliethermes, Research IPM Technician)
Dr. Manandhar will discuss research being conducted aimed at enhancing biological control in small farms, funded by Ceres Trust: An Organic Initiative. Ms. Kliethermes will provide an overview of our research involving mass trapping of Japanese beetles and monitoring and organic management of Spotted Wing Drosophila and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

Site 6: Solar-Powered Irrigation and Livestock Watering System (To be determined)
The 2-acre reservoir provides water for the orchard and pastures using a solar-powered pump and extensive piping system. The system is a vital component of the Busby Farm’s integrated / sustainable farming operation. 

Site 7: Integrated Pest Management: Cucurbit Crops (Dr. Jaime PiƱero, State Extension Specialist—IPM)
See an integrated pumpkin/cantaloupe production system featuring cover crop mulches (for weed and disease management), trap cropping (for insect pest control), and use of buckwheat to enhance pollination and crop yields.

Site 8: Multi-Species Grazing (Dr. James Caldwell, Associate Professor Animal Science)
Grazing with multiple species of animals may improve performance of one or both species.  Research projects focus on forage utilization, parasite control and animal performance using different combinations of cattle, sheep and goats.

Site 9: FINCA Garden (Dr. Nadia Navarrete-Tindall, State Extension Specialist- Native Plants)
Tour the newly established FINCA garden planted with native edibles.

Site 10: Integrated Pest Management: Cover Crops for Small Farms and Vegetable Growers (Jacob Wilson, IPM Extension Technician)
Observe several cover crops and discuss uses for small farmers. The demonstration will include cover crop termination using a roller crimper and flail mower.

Site 11: Biofuels (Dr. Raimund Bayan, Principal Investigator & Phil Markway, Research Technician)
An overview of the biofuel/biochar research conducted by Lincoln University. Biochar is a by-product of biofuel production from biomass through a process called pyrolysis. When applied to the soil, biochar improves soil quality and promotes plant growth.

South Campus: Commercial Kitchen Tour (transportation provided) (Maggie Hopper, Farmers’ Market and Commercial Kitchen Manager)
Tour the commercial kitchen and learn about its uses and availability to local producers. Learn more about the farmers’ market sponsored by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension.

$5 Registration Fee - RSVP Requested

To register, call Cindy Thompson or Debbie Hanlin at 573-681-5967 or email Cindy DeOrnellis
For additional information, contact Chris Boeckmann at 573-619-2914 or Cindy DeOrnellis at 573-635-2063. 

DIRECTIONS: From Jefferson City:  Take Hwy 54 West towards Lake of the Ozarks. Proceed approx. 5 miles and turn left onto Goller Road. The farm entrance is located .1 mile from Hwy 54.  Turn right and proceed down the lane to the main building.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gooseberries are Native to Missouri

Gooseberries are a late spring-early summer favorite in the Ozarks according to Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

"Gooseberries also have roots in the Ozarks hills. They are native to much of southern Missouri," said Byers.

How difficult are gooseberries to grow? According to Byers, gooseberries are easy to grow. The small shrubs are useful in landscapes and reach three to four feet in height. The plants are relatively carefree (as far as pests) and one plant may produce up to 25 pounds of fruit.

"For the best results, I recommend planting the Pixwell, Poorman or Welcome varieties," said Byers.

When are gooseberries ready to harvest? Pick gooseberries when the berries are fully sized. Pick gooseberries when they are green and tart, which is when they are best for pies or cakes. If you pick gooseberries when fully ripe, purple or red or color with some sweetness, then use them in preserves or sauce.

"Most gooseberries are thorny plants so be sure to harvest with gloves," said Byers.

How should gooseberries be handled after harvest? First, remove the stem and the calyx then refrigerate the fruit until used in cakes, jams, preserves or sauces.
(by David Burton, Greene County Extension Center)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Food Sold at Farmers' Markets Can be as Safe as Food from a Grocery Store

Shopping at Farmers' Markets is a great way to meet and support local farmers, buy healthy produce and other tasty foods, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere! It is also a great place to take the kids for a fun outing.

However, the place where you are buying your food does not necessarily determine if the product will be safe or not safe. The most important factor is the practices that are used all the way from raising the food until the time that you eat it. Customers shopping at farmers markets, as well as any venue, should be sure to look for a few important clues to help give some idea of the product’s safety. Here are some clues to look for at the market:

Fresh produce
·         Should be clean, look fresh, no cuts or nicks
·         Displayed off the ground/floor

Cut or peeled produce
·         Displayed on/surrounded by ice
·         Look fresh and cold

Meats, eggs, cheeses
·         Package must feel cold; product in cooler/on ice
·         Egg cartons and eggs should be clean, not cracked

·         Must be pasteurized (Missouri regulation), ask vendor to confirm

Juice, cider
·         Pasteurized is safest

Hot prepared foods
·         Would like to see vendor using thermometer
·         Should have a lid, see steam rising from pan

·         See vendors washing their hands
·         See a handwashing station in booth (particularly with prepared foods)

Booth, personal cleanliness           
·         Surfaces of booth, knives, other utensils clean
·         Clean clothes, hands, no wiping nose, etc.

·         Look for any posted food safety certifications/trainings attended

All products
·         Ask vendors about their food safety practices

It is also important when buying foods at a farmers market or anywhere to be sure to handle it safely on the way home and once at home.

More information on this and other food safety topics is available from the University of Missouri Extension and the FDA.

(by Londa Londa Nwadike, PhD, Extension Food Safety Specialist, University of Missouri Extension)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Farm to Table: Building Local and Regional Food Systems

Welcome to Farm to Table: Building Local and Regional Food Systems. This topic room was created to provide information for farmers, ranchers, ag professionals, community organizers and others who are striving to reconfigure the nation's food system so more value stays in food-producing communities. Dig deeper to find educational resources on the following topics:

·         Business Issues
·         Marketing and Markets
·         Distribution and Aggregation
·         Food Safety
·         Food Processing
·         Strong Communities

Farmers in the Portland, Ore., area discuss the opportunities and barriers associated with selling produce to eager urban consumers. Their issues—difficulty finding land, accessing capital, competing neighboring land uses, confusing regulation and zoning laws, and coordinating with distributors and processors—are common in local and regional food systems around the country.  See this video here.

Learn More: Resources from Regional SARE Conferences
Western SARE's Strengthening Agriculture's Infrastructure conference was held in December 2012. Available resources include a conference report, session recordings and more.
North Central SARE's Scaling Up Local Food conference was held in September 2010. Conference organizers developed a list of educational resources.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Yearly Survey Shows Better Results for Pollinators, but Losses Remain Significant

A yearly survey of beekeepers, released today, shows fewer colony losses occurred in the United States over the winter of 2013-2014 than in recent years, but beekeepers say losses remain higher than the level that they consider to be sustainable. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide. That number is above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability, but is a marked improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-2013, and over the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent.

More than three-fourths of the world's flowering plants rely on pollinators, such as bees, to reproduce, meaning pollinators help produce one out of every three bites of food Americans eat.
"Pollinators, such as bees, birds and other insects are essential partners for farmers and ranchers and help produce much of our food supply. Healthy pollinator populations are critical to the continued economic well-being of agricultural producers," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "While we're glad to see improvement this year, losses are still too high and there is still much more work to be done to stabilize bee populations."

There is no way to tell why the bees did better this year, according to both Pettis and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland assistant professor who is the leader of the survey and director of the Bee Informed Partnership. Although the survey, conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Bee Informed Partnership shows improvement, losses remain above the level that beekeepers consider to be economically sustainable. This year, almost two-thirds of the beekeepers responding reported losses greater than the 18.9 percent threshold.

"Yearly fluctuations in the rate of losses like these only demonstrate how complicated the whole issue of honey bee heath has become, with factors such as viruses and other pathogens, parasites like varroa mites, problems of nutrition from lack of diversity in pollen sources, and even sublethal effects of pesticides combining to weaken and kill bee colonies," said Jeff Pettis, co-author of the survey and research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

The winter losses survey covers the period from October 2013 through April 2014. About 7,200 beekeepers responded to the voluntary survey.  A complete analysis of the bee survey data will be published later this year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also announced today that it will hold a summit this fall aimed at addressing the nutrition and forage needs of pollinators. The summit will take place in Washington D.C. on October 20-21 and will be attended by a consortium of public, private, and non-governmental organizations. Attendees will discuss the most recent research related to pollinator loss and work to identify solutions.

Additionally, USDA launched the People's Garden Apiary bee cam at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. as an additional effort to increase public awareness about the reduction of bee populations and to inform Americans about actions they can take to support the recovery of pollinator populations. The USDA "BeeWatch" website will broadcast honey bee hive activity live over the Internet 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Created in 2010, the People's Garden Apiary is home to two beehives. The bees are Italian queens, the most common bee stock and the same used in many honey bee colonies throughout the United States.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The "1-2-3" IPM Approach for Spotted Wing Drosophila Management

Be on the lookout this year for the Spotted Winged Drosophila.  It is expected to be in every county this growing season.

This document briefly discusses the most relevant Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices that are recommended for Spotted Wing Drosophila Management (SWD) in berry crops. The “1-2-3” approach to SWD management is meant to provide easy-to-understand steps to manage SWD in small farms. The three main components being discussed here are monitoring, cultural practices, and timely application of insecticides.

1. Monitoring
For 2014, a monitoring program for susceptible crops is recommended throughout the harvest season. Place one monitoring trap baited with active dry yeast (1/2 tablespoon), sugar (2 tablespoons) and water (6 ounces) every 2-3 acres (Washington State Univ. recommends 1 trap in each crop or 1 trap per acre for large plantings). The trap needs to be hung on a plant, stake, or trellis 3–5 ft. or feet above the ground on the most shaded / coolest side of the plant canopy.
Articles discussing the importance of SWD monitoring, trap construction, and monitoring protocols can be found at Lincoln University's IPM website.

2. Cultural Practices
Cultural controls are practices that reduce the establishment, reproduction, dispersal, and survival of immature SWD.
o    Sanitation: Fruit should be harvested frequently and completely. Culled fruit should be removed from the field and either frozen, “baked” in clear plastic bags placed in the sun, or disposed of off-site.
o    Canopy and water management: Prune plants to maintain an open canopy. This may make plantings less attractive to SWD and will improve spray coverage. Leaking trickle irrigation lines should be repaired, and overhead irrigation should be minimized. Allow the ground and mulch surface to dry before irrigating to increase the likelihood that larvae/pupae of SWD in the soil will desiccate and die.

3. Insecticide Sprays
No action threshold is available for SWD and in other states traps have not consistently been able to detect adults prior to fruit infestations. Based on this information, Michigan State University researchers are recommending a more conservative approach involving application of insecticides when SWD are captured by monitoring traps and the crop being protected has the first fruit beginning to soften and turn color.

Assessing the efficacy of an IPM program targeting SWD
It is important to highlight that an IPM program includes the use of monitoring traps to assess adult SWD population levels. Quantifying fruit infestation through fruit sampling is critical to determine the effectiveness of control systems implemented against SWD.

1.   FRUIT SAMPLING: North Carolina State University researchers suggest sampling at least 30 fruits from each field to determine insecticide spray efficacy.
2.   DETECTING LARVAL INFESTATIONS: Fruit infestation can be analyzed through various methods. Five methods are discussed below (source: NC State):
§  Sugar flotation: Add ¼ cup sugar to 4 cups water then lightly crush the fruit to break the skin. Place fruit and sugar-water in a one gallon zip bag and observe larvae. The larvae should float and the fruit should sink, but this isn’t always the case. A hand lens may be needed for small larvae.
§  Salt extraction: Place fruit in a flat container in a thin layer. A dark container or a clear container against a dark surface works best. Pour salt water (1/4 cup of salt per gal of water) over fruit. After 10-15 minutes, larvae will exit fruit. If no larvae are visible, gently crush fruit to ensure salt water has penetrated. Keep in mind that larvae are more visible when moving; however, immersion in salt water will eventually kill them.
§  Freezing or chilling: SWD eggs and larvae cease development at temperatures less than 41F, likely preventing further damage to the fruit. The longer fruit are stored and the cooler the temperature of storage, the more likely that small SWD larvae will die. Holding fruit at cooler temperatures also give growers the added benefit of determining how significant the infestation, as large larvae will exit fruit as it cools. To do this, place fruit into a sealed, clear plastic bag and freeze or refrigerate overnight. Larger larvae will exit fruit and typically die on the surface of the fruit or the bag but small larvae may not exit fruit.
§  Direct observation: directly crush or cut the fruit, larvae may directly observed (a hand lens may be needed).
§  Rearing flies out: Since it is practically impossible to tell SWD larvae from other vinegar fly species, then holding larvae and pupae in a container with ventilation until adult flies emerge is currently the only definitive way to confirm SWD infestations. Fruit should be held at room temperature for up to 14 days to ensure all adults will emerge.

For the last five years or so, researchers have been evaluating numerous insecticides to identify the products that provide effective SWD control while reducing negative impacts to non-target organisms including pollinators. A number of registered conventional insecticides have shown to be effective against SWD in recent trials by Michigan State University researchers. Insecticides with fast knockdown activity such as the organophosphate Malathion*, the pyrethroids Asana (esfenvalerate), Danitol (fenpropathrin), Mustang Max (Zeta-cypermethrin), and Brigade (bifenthrin), and the spinosyns Delegate and Entrust (organic) have performed best. In a recent paper, researchers from Michigan State University (Van Timmeren and Isaacs, 2013) documented that spinosad (Entrust) and Spinetoram (Delegate) consistently performed as well as some pyrethroids such as Zeta-cypermethrin (Mustang Max). Malathion also showed good performance. Most insecticides lost efficacy after rainfall, and one of the exceptions was Zeta-cypermethrin (Mustang Max). Efficacy of most treatments was reduced greatly after exposure to just over 2 cm of rain. By one week after treatment adult mortality was not significantly different from the untreated controls for most insecticides that had been exposed to rain.
(*While effective at suppressing SWD, malation degrades with UV light, therefore increasing the rate could help mitigate the effects of environmental degradation of this insecticide.)

Research done in Florida also indicates that Danitol, Mustang Max, and Delegate performed equally well at reducing adult SWD activity and injury to blueberries.

Lincoln University IPM program: and 
Michigan State University: 
North Carolina State University: 
Oregon State University: http://spottedwing.orgCornell University SWD website: 

(by Patrick Byers, MU Regional Horticulture Specialist and Dr. Jaime Pinero, LU IPM Specialist)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Food Labels: Is it Really Organic?

Deciphering food labels and marketing claims can be a challenge for the average consumer.  Companies use production and handling claims as a way to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices.

USDA certified organic products have strict production and labeling requirements.  The U.S. organic industry is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.  Certified organic products are produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  The organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances.

If a product meets these requirements, its label may include a statement like, “Made with organic oats and cranberries.”  A more generic statement like, “Made with organic ingredients,” is not allowed.

If an ingredient is identified in the “Made with organic ***” statement, it must be a truthful claim. This means the product can only contain organic forms of that specific ingredient.   For example, if the label states “Made with organic corn” all raw and processed corn-based ingredients—such as blue corn, corn oil, and corn starch—must be certified organic.

The USDA organic regulations provide a set list of “food groups.” All raw and processed forms of ingredients in that food group must be certified organic. For example, if a product states, “Made with organic grains,” all ingredients derived from grains—such as enriched wheat flour, corn oil, or oats—must be certified organic.  If a product contains both organic and non-organic forms of the same ingredient, they must be identified separately in the ingredient statement.

“Made with organic***” products can’t use the USDA organic seal, but must identify the USDA-accredited certifying agent. You can look for the identity of the certifier on a packaged product for verification that the product meets USDA’s organic standards.  Certifying agents are accredited by the USDA, and are responsible for ensuring that the USDA organic products meet or exceed all organic standards.

The NOP recently put out final guidance on this labeling category to ensure consistency in labeling practices throughout the organic industry.  Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market, and USDA is committed to meeting these expectations.  Or, as we like to say at NOP, “organic integrity from farm to table, consumers trust the organic label.”

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cooperative Farming

If you've thought about how you and neighboring farmers could work together collaboratively but weren't sure how to go about it, then this new publication from The Greenhorns might come in handy - Cooperative Farming: Frameworks for Farming Together.

The guidebook has chapters on:

* What is a cooperative? What is cooperative farming?

* Resource-sharing and Services

* Group Farms and Collective Farms

* Structuring a Group Enterprise

* Making it Work

* Cooperative Farm Land-holding

Farming is hard work.  Buying inputs for the farm can be expensive especially for beginning farmers.  But perhaps by creating a collaborative effort of a number of farmers working together perhaps these inputs could become less expensive.  Why does every farm have to have it's own tractor?  How can farmers share their equipment with others?  What does it take to do this?  How can a number of farmers go together to buy in bulk instead of paying a higher cost by yourself?  How can farmers work more cooperatively without being in an official cooperative?

All these questions and more are discussed in this book.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Apply now for 2014 Rural Energy for America Funding

Farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses can apply now for grants and loan guarantees for clean energy projects under the Rural Energy for America Program – or REAP. REAP was renewed in the 2014 Farm Bill and supports a wide range of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, including wind, solar, biogas, biomass, small hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, wave, and hydroelectric technologies.
Interest in solar is growing with REAP!
The USDA accepts applications year round and people can apply now use existing application forms. Grants cover up to 25% of project costs. The loan guarantees facilitate lending by providing a guarantee of a portion of the principal to the lender. You can find more background information on REAP here.
An official notice of funding availability is expected in early April, with an application
deadline 60 days later. This notice would be for funds from the 2014 appropriation plus funds carried over from previous years (total about $28 million). When the final REAP rule is announced, possibly in June or July, a second funding announcement will be issued for the 2014 mandatory funding ($50 million) from the new Farm Bill. Applications submitted but not funded in the first round will be considered in the second round.
There will be some changes in projects eligible for funding this year. Due to changes in the new Farm Bill, there will be no funding for ethanol blender pumps or feasibility studies. As the statutory deadline has passed, there will be no funding for Energy Audit or Renewable Energy Development Assistance projects. The next opportunity to apply for those is next January.

How to win funding competition

Potential applicants should remember that the USDA awards REAP funds on a competitive basis, both within a state and nationally. Applicants improve their chances with careful planning to maximize the score on their application. Applications are scored on a number of criteria where careful planning and self-scoring can increase chances of success.
At, we provide tools and tips to help facilitate application preparation and self-evaluate applications scores.  Application templates are available at the Iowa USDA REAP web page. These templates can help dealers and distributors prepare multiple applications.
Applicants should also be sure to check in early with the state staff of USDA rural development. They can answer questions, provide useful advice and may need to visit the project during the application process.
The USDA is working on implementing new rules from the 2014 Farm Bill and these new rules are expected be released this summer.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Supporting Pollinators on Organic Farms

Concerned about pollinators on your organic farm? The Xerces Society recently released a new manual on Pollinator Management for Organic Seed Producers. This new publication aids organic seed producers in understanding the role and diversity of seed crop pollinators, as well as strategies for reducing pollen movement between organic and conventional farms. Profiles of common pollinators, strategies for managing pollination, and guidelines for specific crops are all included. You can download the publication here.

Visit the Xerces Society website for more publications on creating and conserving pollinators on organic farms which are available for download including:
  • Pollinator Habitat Assessment Form and Guide for Organic Farms
  • Organic Farming for Bees Toolkit
  • Organic Farming Practices: Reducing Harm to Pollinators
  • Organic-Approved Pesticides: Minimizing Risk to Pollinators
  • Farming for Bees
  • Biodiversity Conservation: An Organic Farmer’s Guide,  by the Wild Farm Alliance

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Choosing a Legal Structure for Your Agriculture Business

Choosing a legal structure for your business is a task that can feel overwhelming to a small farm or value-added business enterprise. This guide is meant to serve as an overview and a starting point for a conversation with your accountant and attorney. The end goal is to aid you in selecting a structure which shields the primary assets of the owner from any type of litigation potential or liability claim that may occur from business activities.

Sole Proprietorship
Hanging a shingle is an easy, fast way to begin making business transactions. This straightforward approach automatically puts your business in the category of a sole proprietorship. The business is you, and you are the business for all intents and purposes. Nothing has to be done to set up this arrangement, unless the business is operating under a fictitious name. The concern for the business owner is that there is no legal framework to shield the business owner's individual assets from those of the business.

A partnership is a single company owned by two or more people. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business's management plan, financials, and share of profits and losses, and should include an exit or dissolution plan. Profits or losses from the partnership pass through to the named partners at tax time, rather than having the business file taxes.

Limited Liability Corporation
A very common structure small businesses use is a LLC, which stands for Limited Liability Corporation. It provides the liability protection of a corporation with the tax structure of a partnership, while providing operational flexibility.

Non-profit status, or incorporating as a 501(c) 3 is unusual for agriculture enterprises, but not unheard of. Farms with a mission-based objective such as food justice or education, may qualify for this status. Surplus revenue must be used to achieve the mission of the business, rather than be dispersed as profit.

The cooperative is owned by those who use its services, and profits are distributed to the user-owners. It consists of a board and members that have voting rights. This is common in agriculture, where high capital infrastructure such as packing, storage, trucks, or processing facilities can be purchased, used, and collectively owned by cooperative members to the benefit of all. If there are surplus profits, coop members are taxed once on the profits and not at the corporate level.

C Corporation
The C Corporation is in and of itself a legal entity liable for its potential debts. This is a complex structure which is usually reserved for large companies with many employees, and is not common in the family farm or business model.

S Corporation
Profits and therefore taxes can pass through the S Corporation to the individual shareholders. It is possible to create an S Corp sub chapter on an LLC. As in the C Corporation, this structure is not common with farms and small food businesses.

In closing, it is wise for the small agriculture business owner to be educated about business structures and liability implications in order to protect primary assets. A small amount of planning and investment in engaging professionals where needed can protect the future of the business and its owners.

(by Heather Mikulas, Penn State University)

Monday, May 12, 2014

2012 Ag Census Highlights

A family affair:
Honey Locust Hills Farm
So who really are the farmers of today.  Every 5 years, the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service takes a survey of farms and farmers.  And it's interesting to see some of just who are farmers are!  Highlights of the 2012 Census of Agriculture data release include:
  • 22% of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012. That means 1 out of every 5 farmers operated a farm for less than 10 years.
  • Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. That's an 11.3% increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job.
  • 969,672 farm operators were female—30% of all farm operators in the U.S.
  • The number of farms ran by Latino farmers increased from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012. That 21% increase reflects the changing face of America as a whole.
  • 70% of all farms in the U.S. had internet access in 2012, up from 56.5% in 2007, but there is more work to be done to expand internet access in rural America.
  • Farmers and ranchers continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable energy future. 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That's more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63% of renewable energy producing systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
  • Nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Industry estimates valued local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the growing importance of this new market to farm and ranch businesses.
  • Total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82% since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012. Organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Deep Down & Dirty: The Science of Soil

A new BBC Documentary for 2014 is  Deep Down & Dirty: The Science of Soil.

For billions of years our planet was devoid of life, but something transformed it into a vibrant, living planet. That something was soil.

It's a much-misunderstood substance, often dismissed as 'dirt', something to be avoided. Yet the crops we eat, the animals we rely on, the very oxygen we breathe, all depend on the existence of the plant life that bursts from the soil every year.

In this film, gardening expert Chris Beardshaw explores where soil comes from, what it's made of and what makes it so essential to life. Using specialist microphotography, he reveals it as we've never seen it before - an intricate microscopic landscape, teeming with strange and wonderful life-forms.

It's a world where the chaos of life meets the permanence of rock, the two interacting with each other to make a living system of staggering complexity that sustains all life on Earth.

Chris explores how man is challenging this most precious resource on our planet and how new science is seeking to preserve it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Need Clarity on the NOP Seed Requirement?

Save the Date June 6, 2014: The Organic Seed Alliance will host a webinar through eOrganic that educates certifiers and certified operations on the topic of organic seed availability and sourcing. The webinar will cover the organic seed regulatory requirement, including the National Organic Program's (NOP) 2013 guidance that aimed to clarify this requirement. Perspectives on enforcement and sourcing challenges will be shared, as well as recommendations for improving organic seed sourcing. This project is supported by a contract from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service's National Organic Program. Registration will be opening in the next few weeks on our webinar page at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meat prices continue to rise for producers, consumers

“Bargains in the meat case might be hard to find,” said University of Missouri Extension economist Ron Plain at the recent Ag Marketing Outlook Conference.

Bringing home the bacon this year requires more cash. Short supplies of cattle and hogs are pushing prices upward at the sale barn and the supermarket.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) caused the largest-ever drop in pigs per litter (PPL) from December to February. PPL plummeted by 5.5 percent. The second biggest drop was June to August 1988, when PPL dropped 1.68 percent. “We haven’t seen this magnitude of loss before,” Plain said.

The spread of PEDV slows during warm weather and appears to have peaked in February and March.

Pork inventories declined 3.2 percent in March. Plain said hog prices are expected to remain well above $100 per hundredweight this summer and decline to the $90s by the end of the year.

This translates to higher prices for consumers and producers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a pound of bacon averaged $5.55 in March, 21 percent more than last year. Ham increased by 12.5 percent to $4.20 per pound. Prices in the Midwest remain lower than national prices, except for eggs, which saw a 15 percent increase.

“Where’s the beef?” might be the next question. The drought of 2012 reduced forage supplies for cattle and contributed to the lowest number of cattle since 1951, Plain said. Future cattle prices are predicted to be around $1.40 per pound. Cow-calf profit margins should remain about $350 per cow, he said.

Plain said USDA forecasts less beef on the market throughout 2014. Beef producers should expect strong prices all year. He said cattle slaughter through mid-April was down 4.8 percent.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an 11 percent increase in the price of ground beef to $3.69 per pound in March.

Per capita meat consumption in 2012 was the lowest since 1991. Plain said consumers face sticker shock as beef and dairy prices increase, and there is less meat available for export. Continued drought in California, which produces one of five dairy cows, will affect the nation’s supply of milk used in dairy products.

In row crops, MU Extension specialist David Reinbott said planting progress is behind. Based on USDA’s March 31 planting intentions report, there will be 3.7 million fewer corn acres planted this year.

The national season-average corn price should be around $4.40 per bushel, but that could fall to just under $4 if ending stocks are over 1.8 billion, Reinbott said. The price may be nearer $5 if ending stocks are closer to 1.2 billion bushels. New crop prices could peak in May and trend downward to a seasonal low in October if planting is not delayed much and there is little significant heat or dryness.

Reinbott said U.S. producers are expected to plant fewer acres of corn, but soybean acres could be more than 5 million.

Reinbott also said civil unrest in Ukraine may drive up wheat prices across the world. Ukraine exports 6 percent of the world’s wheat.

Domestically, drought coupled with freezing temperatures in late March caused about one-third of the nation’s wheat crop to be in poor to very poor condition in key states such as Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

(by Linda Giest, MU Writer)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Questions for Those Considering “Direct Marketing” of Farm Products

U-pick and farm stand sales can be great for some people, but make sure this marketing approach will fit your personality.

Selling directly to customers can be a great way to improve net profits for produce, fruits, meat animals and other farm products. But a good deal of careful consideration should be given to the details before plunging ahead. One of the most important is dealing with people, your customers. Are you well-suited to dealing one-on-one with customers? Do people generally get under your skin? Are you a real people-person?

The following list of questions was developed with the help of a seasoned U-pick strawberry grower and retired Michigan State University Extension professional. The success and longevity of his strawberry business gives a lot of weight to these observations. Here are nine questions to ask yourself before you get started.

1. Are you a people person?
  • Ninety-eight percent of customers are good people to deal with.
  • Two percent of customers will give you headaches.
2. Where are you at right now with your ag business?
  • Are you already producing but not selling what you intend to direct market?
  • Are you already producing and selling it?
  • Neither?
Producing and marketing need to be addressed separately.
Start where you find yourself right now.
Be realistic.

3. What kind of market are you aiming for?
  • Niche?
  • Local?
  • Larger?
4. Who are you going to sell to?
  • Individuals? (Least headaches and most profits.)
  • Groups?
  • Businesses?
  • Retail, wholesale or both?
5. Are you assuming you have a market for your product, or have you proved that your market exists?
  • Talk to a lot of people; visit with organizations (local planning organizations, Chamber of Commerce, etc.).
  • Who else is currently selling the same or similar product?
  • Can I produce a better product than the competition?
6. Do you have a quality product?
  • Compare your product with the best in the industry, not just your neighbor.
7. Do you have a business plan?
  • This is essential if you need to borrow money.
  • Be conservative when making the plan. Don’t assume you will have high yields, high prices and sell everything you have. Make middle of the road assumptions.
8. Do you know your cost of production? How will you calculate your price?

9. Are you comfortable with the concept of “the customer is always right?”
  • Remember, the customer drives the direct marketing business.
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