Monday, June 30, 2014

Chinese High Tunnel Part of Innovation at Missouri Teaching Farm

Curtis Millsap in the
Chinese High Tunnel  on his
southwestern Missouri farm
You can get just about anything you want at Millsap Farms, including an education about market farming.

Curtis Millsap estimates that he and his family, and a crew of interns, feed about 200 families on 2.5 acres of his 20-acre farm near Springfield. While another seven acres of the farm sometimes includes sheep, poultry and cattle, it's the vegetable operation that supports Millsap, his wife Sarah and their nine young children. Millsap utilizes two greenhouses and three seasonal high tunnels to grow produce year-round, which he sells through the Farmers Market of the Ozarks and to 75-100 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) customers.

One of Millsap's high tunnels is a Chinese high tunnel, which he built with funding through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Previously, Millsap received $4,878 from NRCS to install a conventional seasonal high tunnel through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

There are hundreds of seasonal high tunnels in Missouri, including nearly 500 funded by NRCS, but Millsap's Chinese high tunnel is the only one in Missouri, and one of only a few in the United States. Millsap received $20,000 from a $50,000 CIG obtained by the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks to build the Chinese high tunnel, pay for energy renovations in other greenhouses and to establish a grazing system.

The Chinese high tunnel differs from other seasonal high tunnels in that one of the long sides of the 23x70-foot structure and both short ends are heavily insulated with concrete and soil.

"One of the things the CIG did was improve our efficiency in the high tunnel," Millsap says. "It is warmer in the morning and warmer in the evening (in the Chinese high tunnel) than in the other greenhouses. But what's interesting is that midday, it is cooler in there than in the other greenhouses. This thing never spikes. It has a smooth curve, which is better for plants."

Millsap says the different design is popular in China, where energy is expensive and labor is cheap.

"I was looking into the future and thinking that energy is not going to get cheaper, so it made sense," Millsap says. "And this is a teaching farm, so I have the workers."

Millsap's workers include seven apprentices who are compensated with room and board, a farming education and a stipend.

"These are people who seriously want to experience this and see if they want to be farmers," Millsap says. "We've been doing this for seven years. I've had 20 apprentices, and seven are still actively involved in agriculture."

The farm also serves as a site for farm tours and other community events, all intended to further the buy-local movement. USDA promotes the movement through its "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" campaign.

"We have this great promotion in 'buy local,' but that will go away if we can't meet demand," Millsap says. "We try to get as many people out to the farm as we can, show them what farming is about, maybe get their hands dirty."

In southwestern Missouri, where soils tend to be high in clay and rock content, growing vegetables sometimes requires different techniques.

"We have a few obstacles here with shallow soils," says NRCS District Conservationist Mark Green. "We call this soil with substance."

Millsap overcame the shallow, rocky soil obstacle by building raised beds inside the high tunnel.

Not raised on a farm, Millsap says he learned to farm by attending conferences, by reading and by visiting with lots of other farmers. He says it was something he found himself called to do.

"It's not something I was looking to do, but sometimes when you are called, you better listen,"
he says.
(by Charlie Rahm, MO NRCS)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Toxic Fungus Appears in Missouri Pastures

The first two weeks of July are prime time for ergot to appear in common pasture grasses, said University of Missouri Extension forage specialist Craig Roberts.

Wet, cool weather, followed by heat and humidity, creates favorable conditions for the disease.

“With the amount of moisture in the ground and in the plants, the state turns into an incubator when it gets hot,” Roberts said.

Ergot, a fungus, produces toxic alkaloid compounds. “It will be another ergot year,” said Tim Evans, toxicologist in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Ergot appeared in pockets of Missouri in 2013.

Callaway County residents Robert and Linda Schaefer reported ergot in fescue pastures on Wednesday. It was spotted by a USDA staff member who was making a farm visit.

They have cattle grazing on the pasture and needed know what to do. Roberts and Evans told them to cut the pasture to a 4-inch height and bale later. “This removes toxic seed heads and low quality stems,” he said. “It also stimulates regrowth, which we might see with this year’s rainfall.”

Roberts advises against feeding infected seed heads to livestock. If hay is made, producers should be aware that at least half of the alkaloid concentration remains, even if the hay is field cured and stored for more than a year.

Time is critical, Evans said, because ergot infestation can potentially kill cattle and, even, horses, especially when it hot and humid. The toxins constrict blood vessels, increase respiration rates, raise core body temperatures and limit blood supplies to the extremities of animals.  Ergot poisoning sometimes is confused with fescue toxicosis, which is commonly referred to as “fescue foot” in the winter and “summer slump” during the hotter times of the year.

Evans said ergot poisoning can look like fescue toxicosis on steroids. Cattle poisoned by ergot, like those with “summer slump,” often have elevated body temperatures and seek relief in the shade or stand in water to cool off. Other symptoms can include overall malaise characterized by rapid breathing, decreased appetite and milk production.

However, ergot can also cause abortion in pregnant cows, possible sloughing of the switches of tails and tips of ears, even during the summer, severe lameness and potentially death.

Ergot bodies on seed heads look like mouse droppings. The ergot bodies are easily visible in the seed head of cereal grains such as barley, oats, wheat, triticale and rye as well as many common grasses such as timothy and tall fescue.

Ergot may give a slight black cast to an infected field. “Once you start to look for it, it’s really evident,” said Mrs. Schaefer.

Ergot also can be toxic to humans and other ruminants, llamas and alpacas, swine and, even, dogs.
(by Linda Geist, MU Extension Writer)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tool Helps Farmers Decide on Pasture Insurance

Is pasture insurance right for your farm? The answer could be yes, no or maybe.

University of Missouri Extension recently launched an online tool that can help farmers decide if purchasing pasture, range and forage (PRF) insurance makes sense for their operation.

MU Extension agricultural economist Ray Massey says that unlike most crop insurance, PRF is based on rainfall rather than yield.

“It is hard to understand what the yield is on pasture,” Massey says. “You put cows out there and you take cows off. You don’t normally take off grass unless you’re haying it.”

MU’s online tool provides the same daily estimates from the National Weather Service that the USDA Risk Management Agency uses to determine accumulated rainfall over a two-month period. However, it also lets producers break down rainfall by day and amount, while RMA only presents a monthly percentage index.  Massey says daily information will help farmers see the correlation between what the RMA is paying insurance on and what is happening on their farm.

NWS rainfall estimates are divided among grid squares measuring approximately 15 miles per side. When rainfall is below the insured level in a square, an indemnity will be paid based on how much insurance coverage was purchased for that month for land within that square.

Because rainfall can vary greatly within a square, the NWS estimate might not match the amount of rainfall an individual farmer receives.

“We’re hoping farmers will keep track throughout the growing season and come to understand how the insurance works,” Massey says. “So on Nov. 15, 2014, when farmers can sign up for 2015 insurance, they will be able to make a decision on whether or not to purchase PRF.”

To access the PRF module, sign up at You will need to provide an email address, street address, and the latitude and longitude of your farm. Complete instructions and additional information is at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

4 Resources

Here are a number of resources that you might find helpful.

Honeycomb to Consumer - Marketing Small Scale Honey Guide
Small-scale farmers and hobbyists are keeping more honeybees than ever in NY.  With concerns about adultered foreign honey, local honey is becoming more popular.  This new bulletin provides guidelines for small-scale honey producers who are extracting, packing, and marketing honey.  It covers New York's honey rules, proper labeling, packing area sanitation, health claims, and includes a wide range of marketing ideas to inspire newer honey farmers.   The guide was written by Jim Ochterski, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County in collaboration with small-scale beekeepers and the Empire State Honey Producers Association. You can download it here: 

Building Local and Regional Food Systems Topic Room
The local food movement is more than a trend among many consumers - it is becoming a way of life, one that presents farmers with new business opportunities. But the know-how and infrastructure to get food to local markets is not always readily available. Now, you can use SARE's new topic room, "Farm to Table: Building Local and Regional Food Systems," to find the materials you need to join the movement. Resources compiled in the topic room are grouped into the following categories: Business Issues, Marketing and Markets, Distribution and Aggregation, Food Safety, Food Processing, Strong Communities, and Training Resources for Practitioners.

High Tunnel Construction Guide Available Online
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has published High Tunnel Hoop House Construction Guide. According to author Steve Upson, the publication is the product of 17 years of experience in hoop house (high tunnel) design, construction, and utilization. The guide introduces the novice grower/ hoop house builder to the various tools and techniques used in constructing a wide range of commercial and homemade hoop house models. Upson comments that careful study of this publication prior to purchasing a hoop house kit or materials to custom-build a structure will save the builder time and money as well as reduce the level of frustration encountered during the construction process. The 102-page publication is online in PDF and can be found here.

Farm Commons Releases Food Safety and Farm Event Legal Guides
Farm Commons has just released the Farmers' Guide to Reducing the Legal Risks of a Food Safety Incident. The detailed legal explanations explore the background behind the law while action points help farmers move forward with reducing their legal risk exposure. In addition, Farm Commons' newly updated guide, Hosting Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm Events, is now available online. While learning about how things can go wrong, farmers and advocates will also find action points to help reduce legal risk exposure while having a great time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Farm Bill Measures for Beginning Farmers

U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced the implementation of new Farm Bill measures and other policy changes to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Harden also unveiled, a new website that will provide a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed.

  • Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2014 crop year. NAP provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product. Under this waiver, announced via an official notice (PDF, 171KB) to Farm Service Agency offices, farmers and ranchers whom already enrolled in NAP for the 2014 crop year are eligible for a service fee refund.
  • Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for new and beginning farmers which will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land consistent with approved conservation plans. Previously, farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25 percent. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergency like drought and other natural disasters.
  • Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) (PDF, 288KB). Under this provision, beginning and farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees, under ELAP. This is a fifty percent increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers. 

"New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy. The new policies announced today will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive."

USDA's New Farmers website has in depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education, and technical support programs. These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers. The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.

Today's policy announcements in support of beginning farmers and ranchers include:
In the near future, USDA will also announce additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers – including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.

These policy announcements are made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

The Deputy Secretary made these announcements at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee held at the University of California Davis, California. This Advisory Committee, composed of 20 members, including Extension agents, lenders, farmers, ranchers and academics will meet through 2015 to learn, discuss, and formulate recommendations to USDA on how to support new and beginning farmers.

A fact sheet outlining significant USDA efforts to support beginning farmers and ranchers, and other Department-wide accomplishments, are available on

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hot Weather Management of Poultry

With the official start of summer here and temperatures beginning to heat up, it is very important for poultry producers to be mindful of the effects these warmer temperatures can have on their flocks.

Hot weather can severely impact poultry performance. Heat stress in poultry typically begins when the ambient temperature climbs above 80 degrees Fahrenheit and becomes very apparent at temperatures around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. When a bird begins to pant, physiological changes have already taken place within its body to help eliminate excess heat. Practicing proper heat management to help keep birds comfortable will help maintain optimum growth, hatchability, egg size, egg shell quality, and egg production.

When temperatures reach mid- to upper 90s, it is important for birds to be able to dissipate body heat to maintain a body temperature of about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. However, poultry do not sweat. Therefore, body heat is dissipated from wattles, shanks, and unfeathered areas under the wings. Birds do not need to drastically alter normal behavior, feed intake, or metabolism to maintain body temperature by heat loss. The purpose of ventilation in poultry housing is to maintain an environment that allows birds to sustain body temperature by sensible heat loss. Sensible heat loss methods include radiation, conduction, and convection which are effective when temperatures range from 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Once temperatures reach 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the method for heat loss shifts to evaporative heat loss. Evaporative heat loss requires birds to dissipate body heat by panting, which begins to occur at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Panting removes heat by the evaporation of water from the moist lining of the respiratory tract. Unfortunately, panting also generates body heat, and causes birds to eliminate water from the body. During the hot summer months, evaporative heat loss typically becomes the primary method by which birds regulate their body temperature unless proper ventilation is provided and other steps are taken to reduce heat stress.

Techniques for managing heat stress include maintaining a grass cover on the ground surrounding the poultry house to reduce reflection of sunlight onto the house. Vegetation should also be trimmed to avoid blocking air movement. Shade trees should be located in areas that do not restrict air movement.

Also, make sure to keep a reliable, clean, cool source of water for birds. Electrolytes can be added to the water to replace those lost during periods of heat stress. For layers, be sure to provide adequate ventilation and air circulation for nesting boxes.

The importance of proper hot weather management for poultry should not be underestimated. Please keep your feathered animals in mind this summer!

(by Alina Corey, Penn State University)

Friday, June 20, 2014

USDA Announces Crop Insurance for Organic Farmers

In a news release last week, USDA announced the launching of a new pilot program for insuring crop losses on diversified and organic farms. The new program, called Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, was authorized by the 2014 farm bill and will provide farmers flexible coverage options for specialty crops, organic production, and diversified cropping systems. Last week, OTA’s Farmer Advisory Council (FAC) held its first summit as part of OTA’s annual Policy Conference and identified availability of adequate crop insurance as one of the barriers to increasing organic acreage in the U.S.

Participants in the FAC Summit heard from administrators from Risk Management Agency (RMA) and discussed new options for organic growers. FAC will continue to solicit input from its members and allied farmer organizations and provide RMA with meaningful feedback from the organic industry as it rolls out the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program.

Contact Nathaniel Lewis, OTA’s Senior Crops and Livestock Specialist with questions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beekeeping Can Benefit Crops and Farm's Bottom Line

Nearly one-third of America's food supply is dependent on honeybee pollination. In fact, the overall success of most farm crops (not counting grass or corn) is dependent on bees.

For example, soybeans derive a five to 10 percent increase from bee pollination. Cucumbers, melons, berries, apples and most fruit crops are totally dependent on bee pollination.

Honeybees even pollinate 50 percent of our alfalfa seed crop. Since dairy cows eat alfalfa hay in large quantities, it means our milk supply is partly dependent on honeybee pollination.

"We grow many fruits and vegetables for which the honey bee is a native pollinator," said Patrick Byers, a horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Unfortunately, the number of bee colonies, and the number of beekeepers, has dropped during the past several years. As a result, the price of renting bee colonies for pollination has doubled.

"There is a shortage of bees and beekeepers throughout the United States. We can import honey, but we cannot import pollination," said Byers.

Getting started in beekeeping is fairly easy. In most of the state, a person can keep about 25 colonies of bees in one location. A single colony will produce 100 pounds of honey per year, which sells for $1.50 per pound wholesale.

Many hobby beekeepers can keep 40 hives in two locations (must be at least 1.5 miles apart), or 100 hives in four locations and make extra money.

Residents inside the city of Springfield are reminded that the city has an agricultural ordinance that requires residents have at least 10 acres of land to be able to have bees.

“That same ordinance was recently changed to allow the raising of some backyard chickens,” said Byers. “It would not be practical to keep bees unless you had at least 10 acres. You would never get enough honey to make it worthwhile if live in an urban area.”

The Missouri Beekeeping Association has a listing of local beekeeping clubs if you’re thinking about keeping bees.  That’s a good place to begin learning.
(by David Burton, MU Extension)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Measuring ET

To set the record straight, no, I’m not running around chasing flying saucers.  ET in this case stands for evapotranspiration.

Evapotranspiration is a combination of two words: evaporation and transpiration. It is a very useful tool for those of us involved in agriculture, and gives a good indication of how much water is lost to the atmosphere every day.

We are all familiar with evaporation. This is the change of liquid water to the vapor, or gaseous state. This water vapor is absorbed into the atmosphere, depending on local atmospheric conditions.

Transpiration is the process where plants take up water through their root systems, move the water up through the plants, and finally send the water in vapor form out through pores in the leaves, again being absorbed into the atmosphere.

One way to think about ET is that it is the opposite of rainfall.  As a CoCoRaHS observer, I measure the precipitation that comes down every day. Now, I’m measuring what returns to the atmosphere every day during the growing season…. ET.

For farmers, ET can provide a valuable tool if they irrigate their crops. Generally speaking, you don’t want to let your soil dry out beyond half of its water holding capacity. If you keep an eye on what rain you are receiving, and then balance that out with daily ET measurements, it can give you an idea of when you need to irrigate.

There are two ways to get those daily ET measurements: calculated and measured.

Many of our MU Ag Experiment Stations have automated weather stations which upload their data to a web site. Some of these have calculated ET measurements, using the Penman-Monteith equation. Local stations in Northwest Missouri giving this calculated ET data include Albany, Brunswick, and Linneus.

The other way to get ET data is to actually measure it. Now that is harder than it sounds… if you could even measure what was going up through a plant, which plant would you use? The best, most consistent way to approach this is to make a mechanical device to measure ET, which is the approach that CoCoRaHS is using. My gauge has a porous ceramic top, covered with a green (leaf-colored) canvas. The company that makes these gauges has spent a lot of effort to insure that these gauges accurately represent true ET. So every morning, I measure how much moisture has been lost over the previous 24 hours.

Since we have finished the month of May, I thought I would compare the precipitation we have received to the ET returning to the atmosphere. In Gallatin, I measured 2.17 inches of precipitation. That was well below the normal for May, which is 5.30 inches. My ET totals for May were 3.53 inches.  That means while we received 2.17 inches, we lost 3.53 inches, for a deficit of 1.36 inches. That certainly didn’t help our drought situation, which was rated as “Abnormally Dry” on the Drought Monitor at the end of May.

For the period of June 1-12, we are starting to see a different picture. I have measured a total of 5.00 inches, with an ET loss of only 1.18 inches. And thanks to that rainfall, Daviess County, and many of the surrounding counties, have been removed from the “Abnormally Dry” status on the Drought Monitor.

If you want to look at ET estimates from the MU Ag Experiment Stations, their web site is

To learn about how to install your own evapotranspiration gauge click here.
(By Tim Baker, Regional Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri Extension)

Monday, June 16, 2014

PEST ALERT - Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)

The emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found in St. Charles County, marking the destructive insect’s first known infestation in the St. Louis area.

EAB was first found in Missouri in the summer of 2008 south of Greenville at a campground on Lake Wappapello, says Hank Stelzer, University of Missouri Extension state forestry specialist. Since then, EAB has been found in 11 Missouri counties, most notably in the Kansas City area.

Left unchecked, EAB is fatal for all three of the state’s native ash trees—blue, green and white ash. Pumpkin ash, a popular ornamental tree, is also susceptible. While mountain ash and prickly ash have “ash” in their name, they are not true ash trees and are not at risk.

“Over the years, ash trees were a species of choice to replace the American elms that were lost to the Dutch elm disease,” says Stelzer. “Plus, they hold up well in urban environments.” Until now.

The infestation in St. Charles County was discovered by an employee at an industrial park on Highway N, a few miles south of Interstate 64. He noticed a declining ash tree in the parking lot. He looked closer and found the distinctive D-shaped exit holes. He then called the urban forester from the Missouri Department of Conservation. The forester, along with entomologists from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, collected a good adult specimen. USDA personnel in Brighton, Michigan, confirmed it was EAB.

The crown of a tree with EAB will be mostly dead within two years of showing symptoms. This could be a problem if the tree is providing summer shade for a home or playground.

What are homeowners and communities to do?

“The first thing a homeowner can do right now is take an inventory. Communities too,” says Stelzer. “Do they have ash trees? If so, how many? And what is their general condition?”

Stelzer says another important question to ask is, “Am I willing to invest the time and money to protect my ash tree?”

Available treatments only protect the tree from attack. Once you stop treating a tree, it will once again be vulnerable. “If that tree is providing shade to your home, then I think the cost of losing that shade in terms of an increased energy bill justifies the expense of protecting the tree,” says Stelzer.

For communities, weighing the costs versus the benefits might seem more abstract, he says. However, the USDA Forest Service has developed a software tool called i-Tree that helps communities of all sizes strengthen their urban forest management and advocacy by quantifying the environmental services that trees provide.

The Kansas City urban forester did just that and was able to get the city government to reallocate $1 million dollars to protect their ash trees,” Stelzer said.

Once you have determined you have an ash tree worth saving, the next thing to do is to take action if you are within 15 miles of a known infestation, he said. There are two options for protecting an ash tree with insecticides: “A homeowner can apply an over-the-counter product each spring, or a professional arborist can apply a registered insecticide providing protection for up to two years.”

If you have decided that a particular ash tree is not worth the long-term investment of protection, then consider replacement. Stelzer has two pieces of advice when it comes to replanting.

First, make sure it is the right tree for the right place. “The replacement tree should be a native species that is adapted to growing in the St. Louis area, and it should be planted in a place where, as it grows, it will not interfere with utility lines or building foundations.”

Second, if you are replacing more than one ash tree, vary your tree selections. “Just like diversifying your stock portfolio, planting a variety of species will help minimize future losses when the next invasive insect or disease shows up,” Stelzer said.

For more information about EAB, go to the University of Missouri Tree Pests website.  “This is an ever-changing situation,” Stelzer said. “The best way to stay informed is to check out our website on a regular basis.”

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pest Alert - Spotted Winged Drosophila

Update by Jaime Pinero, LU IPM Program.  For the latest information keep checking the website -

On June 6th, 2014, we received the report that the first Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) male has been captured by a monitoring trap deployed on an early-season blueberry cultivar in the Webb City area. Farmers in the region are advised to start monitoring for this pest in their own orchards and fruit patches and apply a control measure if SWD is detected.

Male on left.  Female on right.

Should I spray insecticide against SWD again after a rainfall?

Research has shown that the amount of rain that occurs right after the application of some of the main insecticides used against SWD affects the durability of the insecticide on the fruit. For example, Dr. Rufus Isaacs (entomologist at Michigan State University) and his team have documented that Malathion effectiveness decreases immediately one day after a rain greater than 0.5 inches; the effect was that SWD control was only around 20 percent of the control in another field not exposed to the rain. This means that Malathion’s efficacy was almost lost after 0.8 inches of rainfall. In their trials, after a 0.8 inch rainfall, Lannate 90SP kept nearly all of its effectiveness even after 7 days, whereas Mustang Max lost about 20% efficacy within 7 days after the rain event. In general, a 2-inch rain one day after the application will substantially reduce the effectiveness of most of the products.

Remember, the label is the law, so if it doesn't prohibit re-application a farmer can go back again in with a particular insecticide she/he may have applied before a rain event. Otherwise, she/he will need to switch products. Some products explicitly state that farmers need to wait a week or some other period between applications.

As an example, the label of Malathion 8F (Gowan, 79.5% active ingredient) has these comments for blueberries:
·         The maximum application rate is 1.25 pints of product per acre
·         The maximum number of applications per year is 3
·         The minimum re-treatment interval is 5 days
The take-home message is that if rainfall occurs after insecticide application, re-application is needed to maintain fruit protection, but check the product’s label.

If you are a commercial berry / grape producer, the 2014 Midwest Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide (freely available as PDF in this URL: lists the following products against SWD for use in blueberries: Brigade WSB (10WP), Danitol 2.4EC, Delegate 25WG, Entrust 2SC (organic), Entrust 80WP (organic), Imidan 70W, Lannate LV, Lannate SP, Malathion 8F, and Mustang Max 0.8EC.

No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

If you are interested in monitoring for SWD at your farm, free traps and bait (purchased using funds provided by a grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture to the Lincoln University IPM program) are available. They can be mailed at no cost to you. Please contact Jacob Wilson at (573-681-5591).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Census Drilldown” Beginning Farmers and Ranchers – Part 2

Where are Beginning Farmers Farming?
Interestingly, there is not necessarily a strong correlation between states with the youngest (or oldest) farmers, and what percentage of the state’s farming population is new to agriculture and considered a “beginning farmer” by USDA definitions.

Since the USDA definition of “beginning farmers” does not have an age requirement and only refers to farmers who have been farming for ten years or less, the Census data reveals that farmers enter into, and retire from, agriculture at different stages in their lives depending on where they live and where they farm.

For example, Texas has one of the oldest farming populations, but also has the greatest number of beginning farmers and one of the highest percentages of beginning farmers compared to other states.  In contrast, Minnesota farmers are some of the youngest on average when compared to other states, but only 20 percent of the state’s farmers have been farming for less than 10 years.

What this means is that farmers in states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Indiana are getting started in agriculture earlier in life but may not be farming as long as farmers in the South, Southwest, and West.  It may also be the case that there is more succession planning in Midwestern and Great Plains states where the family farm is successfully passed down to the next generation, and that this transition of land is not happening to the same extent in other parts of the country.  Finally, it could be that some farmers are relocating or retiring to states like California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to pursue farming as a second or post-retirement career.

The top states with the greatest number of beginning farmers roughly follow those states with the most total farmers, with Texas having the most new farmers by far with over 60,000 beginning farmers.  There are several states in the Plains, Midwest and Appalachian regions which have higher numbers of beginning farmers than other parts of the country.  California is the only state outside these regions that falls into the top ten states with greatest numbers of new farmers, and it also has one of the highest proportionate shares of its farming population being new to agriculture (36 percent compared to the national average of 29 percent).  Beginning farmers in Iowa on the other hand are significantly more outnumbered by more established farmers, with only 22 percent of its farmers being considered beginning farmers.  Minnesota is the only state that is in both in the top 10 states for total number of farms but not in the top 10 for number of beginning farmers.

Similarly, the states with the fewest number of beginning farmers are also the states with the fewest number of total farmers and include mainly states in the Northeast, Alaska and Hawaii.  However, these same states have some of the highest concentrations of beginning farmers with over half of Alaska’s farming population having been farming for ten years or less.

Which States are Attracting (and Losing) Beginning Farmers?
The Census data also reveals some interesting trends in terms of which states are doing a better job than others in recruiting new farmers and supporting their successful transition into agriculture.

In total, only nine states increased the number of farmers entering agriculture in the past five years compared to the previous Census.  New England is one region that although it has a relatively small farming population, has been successful in growing new farmers over the past ten years.  Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont lead the region with the biggest growth in beginning farmers.  Interestingly, neighboring states like New Jersey lost a significant number of farmers, perhaps due to development pressure or severe flood events in recent years.  And although New York State did see its beginning farmer population decrease, the loss was not as drastic as other parts of the region, perhaps due to the resurgence of local agriculture and small farms in the Hudson Valley and other regions across the state.

Nebraska is the only state in America’s heartland that saw their new farmer population increase.  Nebraskan beginning farmers increased by 9.8 percent over the past five years, compared with significant losses in neighboring states including 20 percent loss in Colorado, 15 percent loss in Kansas, 26 percent loss in Missouri, and 15 percent loss in Iowa.  Part of this trend may be due to the fact that Nebraska has many state resources available for beginning farmers – including state tax incentives to transfer land to new farmers, a state land-link program that helps connects beginning farmers with retiring landowners, and a new farmer training program targeting veteran farmers and ranchers.  Organizations like the Center for Rural Affairs, based in Lyons, NE, have also been at the forefront of some of these innovative models for decades.

New Mexico posted a sizable gain in new farmers, and there were a few other states in the West that saw their new farmer populations increase, including Utah, Nevada, and Alaska, although their total farming populations are relatively small.

In general, Southern states witnessed the most significant loss of new farmers entering agriculture over the past five years, with Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama experiencing the greatest decline.

So what explains the overall decrease in the number of beginning farmers in almost every state across the country?  Some of these new farmers that started farming in the past ten years would also have been counted in the previous Census.  What this data represents is that in most states, fewer farmers entered agriculture between 2008 and 2012 than they did between 1998 and 2002.  It may also be the case that some of the new farmers who started farming between 2003 and 2007 were not able to maintain viable farm operations and left farming before the 2012 Census was conducted.  There are many reasons why a new farm fails, and considering the Great Economic Recession and several severe droughts and floods over the past five years, these may be some of the contributing factors to the loss of these new farms.

It is clear that more needs to be done to grow the next generation of producers.  The 2014 Farm Bill that was signed into law earlier this year includes many programs and gives USDA additional tools to help support, train, and provide technical assistance to new farmers.  However, more funding for new farmer training programs are urgently needed.  Additional state and federal tax incentives to incentivize landowners to sell their farmland to a young farmer are urgently needed.  New, innovative models to help new farmers finance their farm dreams — like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account that is currently being debated in appropriations — are urgently needed.

In short, the programs and tools new farmers have had at their fingertips over the past ten years have perhaps made a dent in slowing the aging of our country’s farm population, but a greater investment and a more coordinated, national strategy is urgently needed to truly buck this trend and ensure the next generation of farmers have the opportunity to successful pursue a career in agriculture.
(NSAC blog, May 28, 2014)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Census Drilldown” Beginning Farmers and Ranchers – Part 1

On May 2, USDA released data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.  The Census of Agriculture has been conducted since 1840 and currently is collected once every five years.  This 2 day series will look at particular themes from the Census that relate to beginning farmers and ranchers.

The new Census data continues to show the aging of the American farm population, with the average age of the American farmer increasing from 57.1 in 2007 to 58.3 in 2012.  What’s more concerning however, is the slow rate at which new farmers are entering agriculture, and the much faster rate at which older farmers are retiring from farming.  On the whole, the U.S. farm population shrunk by roughly 4 percent in the last five years.  This is not all that surprising, given the economic recession and severe weather conditions from the past several years.

However, there were 20 percent fewer beginning farmers (those farmers who have been farming for ten years or less) in 2012 than there were five years earlier.  Our take away?  For starters, that statistic alone signals that recent efforts to reverse the trend of the aging of our farm population have not been as impactful as initially hoped.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has long championed the need for a scaled up investment in the next generation of farmers, and we have had many successes.  The new Census results, however, could not be a clearer signal that our country urgently needs a far more robust national strategy to restore farming as a viable career for the next generation of producers who will step in and continue to farm our country’s land and feed people well into the future.

Below, we break down these Census results further in order to better understand which regions of the country are losing ground fastest with respect to growing the next generation of farmers and which states are leading the way as potential models for how to successfully transition farmland down to a new cohort of young and aspiring farmers.

General Trends
While the farming population in general shrunk by about 4 percent over the past five years, the most significant decrease occurred in farmers who have been farming five years or less.  This pool of very new, beginning farmers shrunk by 23.3 percent since the last Census was released in 2007, whereas those farmers who got started farming ten years ago (between 2003 and 2007) fared slightly better and only decreased by 19.6 percent.  However, even the more “established” beginning farmers shrunk at a much faster rate than their more established farmers who have been farming for more than ten years.

And while there may have been many more farmers who started farming since the last Census, this trend tells us that either not as many farmers chose to pursue agriculture as a career since the last Census, or those who did start farming in the past ten years, and especially over the past five years, did not make it and quit farming temporarily or altogether.

The 2012 Census also had a slightly lower response rate than previous years, and it wouldn’t be surprising if beginning farmers had a lower response rate compared with more established farms that are accustomed to filling out the Census every five years.  In some ways, it is much harder for USDA to track down beginning farmers compared with more established farmers.

Still, there is real concern about the meager numbers of new farmers who are transitioning into agriculture, given that large numbers of their predecessors will be retiring in droves in the coming decades.  The new Census results show that there are now more farmers over the age of 75 than those between the ages of 35 and 44.  From the chart below, it is obvious to see the “lost generation” of farmers under the age of 45 who have chosen to pursue a career other than agriculture.

Despite this gloomy news, the latest Census does show a small increase in the very youngest farmers between the ages of 25 and 34.  While this modest increase is not substantial enough to offset the large droves of farmers reaching retirement age, it is a notable trend that suggests that more and more young people are finding their way into agriculture as a first career option. Groups like the National Young Farmers Coalition have recognized this trend in recent years and have helped develop federal programs, resources and network opportunities for these very young farmers who are coming into agriculture without farm backgrounds and without much capital, but a lot of passion for growing food and taking care of the land.

However, the huge gap between the number of “young” farmers under the age of 44 and those older farmers which make up the vast majority of our country’s farming population suggests more needs to be done to not only recruit more young people into farming, but also those farmers who may be considering agriculture as a second career in their mid-30s to late 40s.

States with the Oldest (and Youngest) Farmers
In general, the new Census data shows that the Plains, Upper Midwest, and a few Northeastern states tend to have younger farmers than the South, Southwest, and Western regions of the country.  Nebraska leads the country as the state with the youngest farmers (55.7 years) and Arizona farmers are the oldest on average (61 years).

Average Age US Farmers
However, there are very localized pockets of both old and young farmers.  Two counties in Colorado (Broomfield and Denver) and two counties in West Virginia (Mingo and McDowell) have some of the oldest farmers in the country with the average farmer being as old as 73.6 years old.  On the opposite spectrum, the counties surrounding New York City (NY), Boston (MA), and Ithaca (NY) have some of the youngest farmers across the nation, including an average age as low as 37.4 years.  This trend points to the growing number of younger farmers settling in urban and peri-urban areas where they are able to take advantage of direct access local markets – including farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and direct to retail sales.
(NSAC blog, May 29, 2014)

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Pilot Program Offers Coverage for Fruits and Vegetables, Organic and Diversified Farms

2014 Farm Bill Expands Crop Insurance Options, Provides Premium Discounts for Qualified Operations

A new risk management option will be available for fruit and vegetable growers and producers with diversified farms. The policy, called Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, will provide flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers. The program will be implemented in counties across the country and will expand in availability over the next several years.

Whole-Farm insurance allows farmers to insure all crops on their farm at once, rather than insuring commodity by commodity. Traditionally, many fruit and vegetable crops have not had crop insurance programs designed for them—making it less attractive for a farmer that primarily planted a commodity crop like wheat or corn to use another part of his or her land for growing fruits and vegetables or other specialty crops. This allows farmers greater flexibility to make planting decisions on their land.

"Crop insurance has been the linchpin of the farm safety net for years and continues to grow as the single most important factor in protecting producers of all sizes from the effects of unpredictable weather," said Vilsack. "Providing farmers the option to insure their whole farm at once gives farmers more flexibility, promotes crop diversity, and helps support the production of healthy fruits and vegetables. More flexibility also empowers farmers and ranchers to make a broader range of decisions with their land, helping them succeed and strengthening our agriculture economy."

The 2014 Farm Bill requires a whole-farm crop insurance policy option, and paves the way for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to make it broadly available to specialty crop, organic, and diversified growers. The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors (FCIC Board) approved the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy for RMA to offer it through the federal crop insurance program in 2015.

USDA has taken many steps to provide effective insurance coverage for diversified, organic and specialty crops. The whole-farm crop insurance policy provides flexibility to meet the needs of specialty crop growers, organic producers and those with diversified farms, and who have farm production and revenue history, including five years of historic farm tax records. This policy is also part of USDA's commitment to small and mid-sized producers managing diversified operations.

USDA has been strengthening crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers. The policy offers coverage levels from 50 to 85 percent; recognizes farm diversification through qualification for the highest coverage levels along with premium rate discounts for multiple crop diversification. The Market Readiness Feature, as outlined in the Farm Bill, simplifies insurance coverage for producers under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy by allowing the costs such as washing, trimming, and packaging to be left in the insured revenue instead of having to adjust those amounts out of the insured amount.

The new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection policy combines Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and AGR-Lite along with several improvements to target diversified farms and farms selling two to five commodities, including specialty crops to wholesale markets. The new policy is also designed to meet the risk management needs of diversified crop or livestock producers including those growing specialty crops and/or selling to local and regional markets, farm identity preserved markets, or direct markets.

As part of the pilot, Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will be available where AGR and AGR-Lite are currently offered, and will expand to other counties as data are available for underwriting and actuarial ratemaking. RMA will release information on the policy later this summer when it becomes available. This information will be announced on the RMA website at

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How Many Eggs Can I Expect from My Chickens?

Having fresh eggs for meals or for baking can be a rewarding part of raising your own chickens.  But what is a realistic expectation for how many eggs your chickens will produce each day?

The laying cycle of a chicken flock usually covers a span of 12 months.  Egg production begins when the young hens (pullets) reach about 18 - 22 weeks of age depending on the breed and season.  Flock production rises sharply and reaches a peak of about 90% 6 - 8 weeks later. This period of peak production lasts about 10 weeks, after which a hen's egg production slowly begins to decline. Production declines to about 65% after 12 months.

* 90% production - 9 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 9 eggs from 10 birds daily
* 65% production - 6 to 7 eggs in 10 days for a single hen or 6 to 7 eggs from 10 birds daily.

Chickens can live for many years and continue to lay eggs for many of these years.  However, after two or three years many hens significantly decline in productivity.  This varies greatly from bird to bird.

Maximizing Egg Production
There are many factors that can adversely affect egg production.  Egg production can be affected by such factors as feed consumption (quality and quantity), water intake, intensity and duration of light, parasite infestation, disease, and numerous management and environmental factors.

Laying chickens require a completely balanced diet to sustain maximum egg production over time.  Inadequate nutrition can cause hens to stop laying.  Inadequate levels of energy, protein or calcium can cause a drop in egg production.  If hens are out of feed for several hours, a decline in egg production will probably occur.

Water is often taken for granted, and yet it is probably the most essential nutrient.  Access to water is important, and a lack of water for several hours will probably cause a decline in egg production.  Hens are more sensitive to a lack of water than a lack of feed.

Hens need about 14 hours of day length to maintain egg production.  The decreasing day length during the Fall and shorter day lengths in the Winter would be expected to cause a severe decline, or even cessation, in egg production unless supplemental light is provided.  Hens exposed to only natural light would be expected to stop laying in the winter and then resume egg production in the spring.

High environmental temperatures pose severe problems for all types of poultry.  Egg production is adversely affected under conditions of severe heat stress.

There are a variety of other problems which can cause an apparent drop in egg production.  Other factors can include predators and snakes consuming eggs, egg eating by hens in the flock, excessive egg breakage, and free-ranging hens hiding their eggs instead of laying them in the nests.
(By Steve Tonn, UNL Extension Livestock Educator)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Cultivating the Next Generation: Resources and Policies to Help Beginning Farmers Succeed in Agriculture

Based on a new study released by American Farmland Trust, finding and affording farmland to rent or buy is universally the greatest challenge for beginning farmers to overcome. While many types of resources are available to support the next generation, when it comes to land access, resources have been too far and few between to address this pervasive and persistent challenge.

Chapters include:
  • Challenges
  • Public Programs that Support Beginning Farmers
  • Access to Capital
  • Access to Land/Infrastructure
  • Agricultural Production, Business Planning and Marketing Assistance
  • Resource Management
  • Succeeding in the Face of Challenges
  • Profiles of Beginning Farmers
Despite the challenges, beginners are finding opportunities to enter and succeed in agriculture, often inspired by and taking advantage of the local food movement. Cultivating the Next Generation: Resources and Policies to Help Beginning Farmers Succeed in Agriculture reports on state and federal programs, and profiles 12 beginning farmers to show what it takes for them to succeed.