What's New in Michigan Organic Ag?
Feb 5 to March 11


1.      The Farm Bill: January 2008 Update
2.      News from The Small Farms Program at Cornell

3.      Select Michigan MDA Markets

4.      Organic Production Opportunities

5.      New organic greenhouse to supply transplants to Meijer stores
Notice of Position Openings

6.    SEEDS is Hiring! 
7.    Seasonal Farm Educator for Pennypack Farm Education Center for
Sustainable Agriculture in P.A.
8.    Organic Farm Manager(s) The Sandpoint Institute.

9.      Vineyard Establishment Workshop Focuses on Wine Grape
Production. March 12 - 13. In Berrien Springs and Traverse City.

10.    Asparagus (A Stalk-umentary) April 30

11.    Methods in Soil and Plant Ecology for Sustainable Systems Summer
2008 Course Announcement 

12.    Seminar to Help Local Businesses Learn How to Become a Government
Supplier. March 27.

13.    Michigan Food & Petroleum Trade Show, Select Michigan Pavilion.
April 28.

14.    Connect with Nature Through MSU Conservation Stewards Program
1.         The Farm Bill: January 2008 Update 

Tilling a field

A conference committee, made up of members of the House and Senate, is
currently negotiating the final farm bill. Wisconsin does not have a
member of the conference committee, but stay tuned for updates because
it could be a fight to get a final farm bill passed. The White House is
threatening to veto the farm bill if provisions that close tax loopholes
and tighten tax shelters, which help fund the nutrition, conservation
and energy sections of the farm bill, are not removed from the final
bill. Delays in the passage of the farm bill could hurt efforts to
increase support for sustainable agriculture priorities. 

On December 14th, the Senate adopted a new farm bill, with some wins for
sustainable agriculture and some losses. Here's the latest on the Senate
version of the bill: 

The Senate farm bill includes critical funding of $2 billion over 5
years for the Conservation Security Program (now called the Conservation
Stewardship Program). CSP is the country's only working lands program,
which rewards farmers for excellence in land stewardship that protects
our waterways, air quality and wildlife habitat. Additionally, the new
bill provides $2 billion for the Wetlands Reserve Program to restore
agricultural wetlands during the next five years. The bill also includes
a new "sodsaver" provision to discourage crop farming on native prairie.

Commodity Reform
The biggest loser in the Senate farm bill is commodity payment reform.
The Senate failed to pass the Dorgan-Grassley payment limitations
amendment, which attempted to cap commodity payments per farmer to
$250,000. Other reform amendments also failed; thus allowing large farms
and non-farmers to continue to receive uncapped commodity payments,
which hurts family farmers, increases the cost of land, and limits the
ability of beginning farmers to start their own farms.

Organic Agriculture 
The bill includes $80 million for the Organic Farming Research and
Extension Initiative; $22 million for the Organic Certification
Cost-Share Program, which assists farmers in paying organic
certification costs; and $5 million for Organic Production and Marketing
Data Collection, which will allow for better tracking of organic
agriculture statistics. The bill also improves organic farmer access to
crop insurance. 

Rural Development
The Senate bill does not include funding for the Value Added Producer
Grant program, which provides key grant dollars to farmers to develop
and market their value added products, such as artisan cheeses,
sustainable timber and organic beef. $40 million is also provided for
the new Rural Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program.

Farmers' Markets and other Direct Marketing
The Senate bill provides $30 million over 5 years for the Farmers'
Market Promotion Program, up from the annual $1 million for the program.

Beginning Farmers
The most fundamental program for beginning farmers, the Beginning Farmer
and Rancher Development program, was not funded in the Senate farm bill.
The bill does create a USDA Office of Small Farms, and Beginning Farmers
and Ranchers to ensure coordination and goal setting within the agency
for all small and beginning farmers and ranchers program. Finally, the
bill authorizes a reduced interest rate and better terms for Beginning
Farmer and Rancher Down Payment Loans, and a new set-aside of
conservation funding for beginning and minority farmers.

Local/ Regional Food Systems
The bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to appoint a diverse team
of researchers to study existing local food systems and potential
community, economic, health and nutrition, environmental, food safety,
and food security impacts of local and regional food systems. The bill
also allows rural development loans for processing and other
infrastructure issues for local food systems.

Livestock Reforms/ State Inspection of Meat Processing
The Senate bill contains a number of livestock reforms that take
important steps to stop the widespread use of unfair contract practices
and disproportionate market power of meatpackers (for more information,
see the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition's news release [pdf].
Additionally, the bill allows meat from small state-inspected meat
plants to be sold in interstate commerce provided that the plants adhere
to federal food safety standards.

These are just some of the highlights and lowlights from the Senate farm
bill. Source: The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Stay tuned as the farm bill debate continues in January 2008.

For more on the farm bill, see the following articles in past MFAI
October Newsletter: Farm Bill Update 
June Newsletter: From School Lunches to Organics: Understanding the 2007
Farm Bill 
April Newsletter (several articles discuss the Farm Bill). 

TOPIC:            New & Beginning Farmers Can Reap Rewards from Online

DATE:           For immediate release, February 27, 2008

CONTACT:     Erica Frenay, 607-539-3246 or [log in to unmask]


 Aspiring, new and diversifying farmers now have the opportunity to
receive farm enterprise start-up training online. The NY Beginning
Farmer Project, a collaborative effort of the Cornell Small Farms
Program and Cooperative Extension educators, has developed a 9-week
online course. The course is designed to benefit participants from a
diversity of backgrounds, from those just exploring a new idea to those
seeking to diversify or expand existing farm operations.

Cornell Cooperative Extension offices have long offered high-quality
courses for beginning farmers, designed to help participants build a
foundation for their business plan. But many aspiring farmers live in
urban areas or counties where demand isn't high enough for such courses
to be offered. Educators have 0. that new farmers tend to be relatively
internet-savvy, yet while they can easily google their way to mountains
of farming information, few online sources exist to guide
decision-making and new farm planning. The NY Beginning Farmer Project
seized this opening to create a new learning opportunity for aspiring,
new and diversifying farmers.

 Course content is drawn from a stand-alone, publicly accessible website
at, while the course (and all
its activities, forums, and homework assignments) is housed in a virtual
"classroom" that can only be entered by registered participants. The
lesson plan is similar to other new farmer trainings and curricula,
starting with an assessment of goals and resources, moving through
marketing, enterprise selection, and environmental stewardship
practices, and ending with taking a hard look at profit potential and
business planning. Along the way, participants interact with each other
through discussion forums, post questions for the instructors, collect
resources relevant to each lesson, and complete activities like helping
a fictional new farmer make decisions about his business.

 Jefferson County CCE Educator Molly Ames, along with Franklin County
Educator Jessica Prosper, will be teaching the next run of the online
course starting the third week of March 2008. The beauty of online
courses is that you can do them from the comfort of your own home, at
whatever time of day suits your schedule. So sit down at the computer,
grab a cup of coffee, and get ready to start making your farm dreams a

 Course Outline& Specifics:

Nine weeks starting the week of Wednesday March 19, 2008 with
introductions and orientation to the on-line course structure, then 7
units covering the basics of building a business plan. Final week ends
May 21st with a quiz and review. 
What's covered: Goals, Skills & Resources, Marketing, Evaluating Land,
Equipment, and Facilities, Choosing an Enterprise, Land Stewardship,
Profitability, Regulations, Taxes and Legal Issues. 
Discussion and Feedback through online forums, email and phone support. 
Opportunities to interact with agricultural entrepreneurs from around
the state, to get feedback and offer input on other ideas and issues
encountered in the exciting markets of today's changing food and
agriculture systems.  Course size is limited so call soon to reserve a
spot. Cost is $200 with $50 due at registration. You will receive a
Letter of Successful Course Completion that can be included in your
business plan documenting your course work. 
 To register, call Kristen at 315-788-8450 and ask to be registered for
the On-Line New Farmer Training.

 The NY Beginning Farmer Project was funded by the NY Farm Viability
Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

3.      Select Michigan MDA Markets:

July 24, 2008 - "Buy Fresh, Buy Local - Select Michigan Farmers Market",
State Capitol lawn, Lansing

August 22, 2008 - Select Michigan Farmers' Market, Henry Ford Hospital,

September 18 - Select Michigan Day Farmers' Market, State Capitol lawn,

Also, we are working with the Governor's Office to have the week of
September 14-20 declared "Select Michigan Week" and with the state
legislature to have September 18 declared "Select Michigan Day" to help
build awareness of the benefits of buying locally grown and processed
food and agriculture products.


If you plan any promotions around these celebrations, please let us know
so we can help promote them as part of the statewide celebration.

Since these markets are being supported in part by a specialty crop
block grant, first priority will be given to companies featuring and
selling products made from Michigan specialty crops.  Specialty crops
are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, and
nursery crops (including floriculture).

More details will follow soon.  In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying
the final stages of winter and gearing up for a terrific growing season
in Michigan!

For more information, contact Jeanne Lipe, Marketing Specialist,
Michigan Department of Agriculture, at 517-373-9790 or
[log in to unmask]

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