Michigan Organic Listserv
April, 2012
Offered by: Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University
For additional information on thesetopics or aspects of organic production contact Vicki Morrone at [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]> or 517-353-3542

Note any product or commercial process mentioned in this newsletter is not promoted by MSU. Please use this information to improve your farm business and knowledge.

Note we have a new section at the bottom of this newsletter: Farm Classifieds: Please send me any classified that are items for sale that are for use in farming or items that you are seeking.

National Organic Coalition News<>

Comments are due to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) thisThursday, May 3.  NOC's draft comments are here.<>  To see comments already posted by NOC members and others, as well as to post your own comments go to:<>

To see topics that theBoard is requesting comments for, see -- go to each of the committee recommendations which will be voted on at the May meeting.

To give you an idea ofwhat we're up to, NOC's draft comments are here<>.

To see comments that have already been submitted, including those of our members, go to<> for this docket:  AMS-NOP-12-0017.

Final Applications for NRCS Organic Initiative Due June 1
 UnitedStates Department of Agriculture • Natural Resources Conservation Service
3001 Coolidge Road, Ste. 250, East Lansing, MI 48823 • Phone: 517-324-5270 •<>
EAST LANSING, April 20, 2012 – USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Garry Lee reminds potential applicants to contact their local NRCS office soon to find out if they are eligible for the agency’s Organic Initiative.Applications for the final ranking period of 2012 are due at NRCS offices by close of business on June 1, 2012.
“This is a great opportunity for organic producers to add new conservation activities that will improve their land and protect our natural resources,” said Lee.
Nationwide, NRCS has nearly $50 million in financial and technical assistance available to certified organic producers, those who want to make the transition to organic production and producers who sell less than $5,000 in organic products annually.
Part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Organic Initiative offers a wide array of conservation practices specifically designed for organic production. The top five Organic Initiative conservation practices are cover crops, nutrient and pest management, seasonal high tunnels, crop rotation, and fencing.
Changes for the 2012 signups include three ranking periods for current and transitioning producers; a threshold ranking score that can speed up approval for qualified applicants; required conservation practices that promote the consistent use of those practices; and an expanded list of conservation activity plans.
A listing of NRCSlocal offices in Michigan is available online at

Brian Buehler
Public Affairs Specialist
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
3001 Coolidge Road, Suite 250
East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone (517) 324-5244

Getting the word out for produce available for LOCAL MARKETS
We are Friends of MIFMA and are making Buy Local easy and accessible across the nation. For the farming community, it means easier LocalSourcing and Farm-Direct sales. We are enabling this in 2 steps:

Step 1 (being found): To make local sourcing easier, your business can now be found more easily on this advanced map-based local sourcing database<>. Take a minute or two and simply register as a seller on SharedMall<> to enlist your business on this advanced locator. It's free.

Step 2 (being accessible): To make farm-direct products more accessible, SharedMall is also a readily available marketplace that enables your products to not just be found on search engines, but also to be ordered locally and invoiced automatically, beyond your operating hours, irrespective of whether you sell from a farm store, farmers market, to an institute, or to individuals in your neighborhood.

To learn more and start taking advantage of this unique and highly subsidized opportunity this season, please register for the below FREE Webinar series (1 overview and demo + 2 remote hands-on workshops to assist you with online setup) scheduled to begin at 3 pm Eastern, tomorrow:

Jatin Patro
[log in to unmask]

Farm Bill Update

New and Socially
Disadvantaged Farmers Need Your Help

As you may know, the Senate Agriculture Committee is in the process of
developing their version of a new farm bill, and it's possible we might see
the bill as soon as Friday of this week. Changes to farm programs and
funding levels are being discussed — some changes not
so good and some outright bad.  We understand that funding for two
important farm bill programs is threatened and we wanted to let you
know about this.  The first is the:
Outreach and Technical Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged
Farmers and Ranchers (Section 2501). For decades, this program has
served as the only farm bill program dedicated to addressing the
needs of African-American, American-Indian, Asian-American and
Latino family farmers and ranchers. It provides critical resources,
outreach, and technical assistance to groups that have been historically
underserved by federal programs. The 2501 program provides a
necessary approach to improving equity and inclusion for socially
disadvantaged producers in federal agricultural programs.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program helps
resource groups and institutions assist new farmers. It’s been highly
successful, and is a critically important program because it is the only
program within USDA that is specifically aimed at beginning farmers
and ranchers.  It provides invaluable training, mentoring, and education
that beginning farmers need to be successful. In addition, current set
aside provisions, matching requirements, and existing program
purposes must be maintained in order to ensure adequate participation
in new farmer training programs by socially disadvantaged producers
and the groups that are best suited to serve and reach them.
U.S. Senators need to hear from organizations and farmers about the
need for making real investments in beginning farmer and socially
disadvantaged programs.
Ask your Senators to support  $25 million
in funding for each of these two programs, which will help to
secure the resources that maintain and grow training and assistance
for our next generation of American farmers and

It takes just a moment. Please call or email your U.S. Senator;
the contact information is
Senator Carl Levin (D)<>
U.S. Senate
202-224-6221 (Capitol)
313-226-6020 (District)

Senator Debbie A. Stabenow (D)<>
U.S. Senate
202-224-4822 (Capitol)
517-203-1760 (District)

         You can make a world of difference.
         Thank you for making your voice heard!
         Best regards,
         Kathleen Hadley--Executive Director

Making Serious Farm Bill Progress
In: Farm Futures -
Senate Ag Committee is ready to mark up a farm bill, and releases the key issues ahead of next week's hearing.
Compiled by staff
Published: Apr 20, 2012
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chair of the Senate Ag Committee willconvene a meeting of the full committee to consider and mark up the 2012 Farm Bill. The framework was worked out with Pat Roberts, R-Kan., creating a bipartisan approach. That hearing is set for Wednesday, April 25. A summary of the committee print, or working document, is at the end of this report. Groups are already weighing in on this bipartisan bill.
"I commend Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts for working together in a bipartisan fashion to write a farm, food and jobs bill this year," says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "Farmers, ranchers and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward."
This latest move is ample evidence the Congress is not really interested in providing an extension to the current bill. Significant changes will be discussed in committee before a bill goes to the floor, and there are a number of major changes. They range from the end of direct payments to a reduction in the number of conservation projects.

In reacting to the marking print, the National Association of Conservation Districts applauded Committee leaders for investing in future conservation. The proposal calls for a 10% cut, or $6 billion over the next 10 years, to Title II Farm Bill programs.
"We fully recognize the need to get our nation's financial house in order, and we understand that means cuts to Farm Bill programs," says Gene Schmidt, NACD president, in a prepared statement. "We're extremely pleased that committee leadership has come up with a strong, balanced plan that fairly recognizes the critical value of locally led conservation at the landscape scale."
The Senate measure is aiming for the $23 billion in cuts that were originally proposed by what some term as the "gang of 12" late in 2011. Although that cuts failed to pass, they live on in some form in this new farm bill starting point.
Steve Wellman, a Syracuse, Neb. farmer, and president of the American Soybean Association applauded Committee leadership for the work done, and encouraged the committee to "complete mark-up as quickly as possible in order to facilitate completion of a balanced and effective FarmBill as quickly as possible this year."
ASA and other organizations must now go over the 900-page chair's mark, and prepare to comment next week. Wellman notes he was pleased to see a "revenue-based risk management program that will complement the federal crop insurance program."
The Senate version of the bill does not cut crop insurance, though there is a lot of pressure from different groups to make the change.
Check out the key points of this new bill below:

*Eliminates Direct Payments while Strengthening Risk Management

Farmers face unique risks unlike other businesses. Weather and market conditions outside a producer’s control can have devastating effects. A risk management system that helps producers stay in business through a few bad seasons ensures that Americans always have access to a safe and plentiful food supply. The proposal:
•    Eliminates direct payments. Farmers will no longer be paid for crops they are not growing, will not be paid for acres that are not actually planted, and will not receive support absent a drop in price or yields.
•    Consolidates two remaining farm programs into one, and will give farmers the ability to tailor risk management coverage—meaning better protection against real risks beyond a farmer’s control.
•    Strengthens crop insurance and expands access so farmers are not wiped out by a few days of bad weather.
Consolidates and Streamlines Programs
By eliminating duplicative programs, funds are concentrated in the areas in which they will have the greatest impact, making them work better for producers.
•                 By ending duplication and consolidating programs, the bill eliminates dozens of programs under the Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction.
?                                   For example, the bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs, whilemaintaining the existing tools farmers and landowners need to protect and conserve land, water and wildlife.
Improves Program Integrity and Accountability
At a time when many out-of-work Americans are in need for the first time in their lives, it is critical that every taxpayer dollar be spent responsibly and serves those truly struggling. By closing loopholes, tightening standards, and requiring greater transparency, the proposal increases efficiency and improves effectiveness.
•                 Increases accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by:
?                                   Stopping lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance.
?                                   Ending misuse by college students.
?                                   Cracking down on retailers and recipients engaged in benefit trafficking.
?                                   Increasing requirements to prevent liquor and tobacco stores from becoming retailers.
?                                   Eliminating gaps in standards that result in overpayment of benefits.
?                                   The proposal maintains benefits for families in need.
Grows America’s Agricultural Economy
The proposal increases efficiency and accountability, saving tens of billions of dollarsoverall, while strengthening agricultural jobs initiatives by:
•                 Expanding export opportunities and helping farmers develop new markets for their goods.
•                 Investing in research to help commercialize new agricultural innovations.
•                 Growing bio-based manufacturing (businesses producing goods in America from raw agricultural products grown in America) by allowing bio-manufacturers to participate in existing U.S. Department of Agriculture loan programs, expanding the BioPreferred labeling initiative, and strengthening a procurement preference so the U.S. government will select bio-based products when purchasing needed goods.
•                 Spurringadvancements in bio-energy production, supporting advanced biomass energy production such as cellulosic ethanol and pellets from woody biomass for power.
•                 Helping family farmers sell locally by increasing support for farmers’ markets and spurring the creation of food hubs to connect farmers to schools and other community-based consumers.
•                 Extending rural development initiatives to help rural communities upgrade infrastructure and create an environment for small businesses to grow.

Pest management considerations for frost-damaged vineyards
Reduce management costs in frosted vineyards by planningresponses based on potential crop load and vineyard pest history.
Posted on April 19, 2012 by Rufus Isaacs and Annemiek Schilder, Michigan State University Extension, Department of Entomology and Department of Plant Pathology

The full extent of frost damage to the 2012 crop may not be known for a month, but the situation in some Michigan vineyards thisspring has created a need for growers to reconsider their spray programs. Guidance on an adjusted insect and diseasecontrol program for frost-damaged vineyards is presented here. The commentsbelow are intended to help growers reduce pest management costs while maintaining a program to address critical needs for vine protection.
We emphasize that there is no “prescription.” Growers need to assess their own sites, decide on whether vineyard blocks will be harvested, and then use regular scouting and knowledge of pest history to keep insect pests and diseases below levels that will cause economic injury. In a year like this, some vineyards will not need cluster protection because thecrop is lost completely. These sites will then be better able to withstand leaf injury from insects so costs may be cut there, too. While the vines will also be able to tolerate more foliar disease, some level of disease control may still be needed to reduce inoculum production and ensure that the vines arehealthy for 2013. Weekly scouting of vineyards, being aware of the crop load, and making decisions based on the facts will go a long way to ensure you are minimizing the cost of managing frost-damaged vineyards.
Even though the current yield loss estimates are high, it should be kept in mind that the actual remaining yield potential will not become apparent until after the secondary buds have pushed and clustershave appeared (see MSU’s Paolo Sabbatini’s<> article, “The effects early spring had on Michigan juice grapes<>”). These guidelines are, therefore, dependent on managers making decisions about the level of crop remaining. If shoots were heavily damaged by frost, but there are enough clusters to harvest some fruit, the focus should be on minimizing the cost of pest management inputs while maintaining quality and yield of the remaining fruit. In a year with a small crop load, the foliage will easily be able to produce sufficient sugars for maturation of the fruit as well as buds and wood for next year. Therefore, the need to protect the foliage from damage by insects and diseases is much lower. In fact, increased canopy size can become a problem due to increased shading, which leads to reduced formation of fruit buds, and increased canopy density which may impede thorough spray coverage.
If a crop is to be harvested from a vineyard, regular scouting can help avoid any more surprises. At the very least, checking vineyards pre-bloom, post-bloom, mid-July, and early August can provide theminimum of information regarding development of key insect pests and diseases. If the cost of hiring a scout seems too much, try negotiating a lower pricebefore canceling this service. Alternatively, walking the rows once a week can help you keep up-to-date on crop and pest development and will cut down thecost of this service. This might take as little as one hour per week. It may not seem worth it to spend any time in some badly affected vineyards, but consider this an investment in the long-term future of the vineyard. A form to help with keeping records of your scouting<>is available.
Insect management
Foliage pests. Decisions for insect control will depend on the expected yield from each vineyard. If it is expected to be close to normal, a typical insect controlprogram should be maintained to guarantee the expected yield and quality. If a lower than normal crop will be harvested, juice grapevines can tolerate leaf damage and still ripen the reduced crop. Because of this, it will be much less important to control Japanese beetles<>, rose chafers<>, and leafhoppers<> than normal. If no post-bloom insecticide application is made, leafhopper infestation can be checked in mid-July to determine the need for controlling this pest. The threshold forjuice grapes with a full crop at this time of the season is 10 percent of leaves infested. Although thresholds have not been developed for situationswith a reduced crop, they are likely to be much higher as the crop load decreases. As mentioned above, the need for foliage protection will be low this year in frost-damaged sites, so only those vineyards where a high leafhopper infestation is discovered will need treatment.
Additionally, there are many highly effective insecticides for control of leafhoppers (seeMSU Extension publication E-154, “2012 Michigan Fruit Management Guide<>”), so these can be controlled quickly if discovered. If no crop will be harvestedthis year from a block, the cost of protecting vines from leafhoppers and beetles is unlikely to be economical in juice grape vineyards. Hybrid and vinifera vines are less tolerant of insect feeding than juice grape varieties. If bearing vineyards of these varieties are infested by foliage pests, leafprotection remains important for achieving fruit ripening and vine maturation. Regular scouting can be used to determine the need for, and timing of, interventions to control foliage pests.
Cluster pests. A program for control of grape berry moth<>, which is the main pest of grape clusters in Michigan, should remain a priority if any grapes are to be harvested. This will help minimize crop loss this year, and will reduce the risk of high infestationsnext year. We do not recommend use of an immediate post-bloom insecticide to vineyards because this generation causes little injury, and this pest can be controlled well by use of well-timed sprays for generations two and three. Sampling vineyards in early July (same time as leafhopper samples above) can be used to determine whether the cost of further insecticide applications is warranted. It is worth keeping the sprayer on hand after veraison, too, in case populations of grape berry moth continue to develop closer to harvest. Thishappened in 2010 when a fourth generation developed.
If this occurs and berries are at risk from infestation, a well-timed effective insecticide may be warranted prior to harvest to minimize risk of infestation in harvested berries. If grape berry moth infestation is restricted to wooded borders in your vineyards, cost savings can be achieved by applying border sprays to the outer 10 rows. Cluster sampling through vineyards in mid-July can help identify vineyards where this strategy would be worthwhile.
Disease management
Foliar diseases. The main foliar diseases that are important in Michigan juice grapes are powdery mildew<> in Concord and downy mildew<> in Niagara grapes. If no fruit will be harvested, foliar diseases are the only diseases that need to be considered. As with insects,vines with a small crop load will be able to tolerate more foliar disease. The other factor to consider is the weather; warm, dry conditions will be more conducive to powdery mildew, whereas cool, wet conditions and heavy dews (more common in late summer) promote downy mildew.
In Concord grapes, control of powdery mildew may not be needed at all, unless there is a concern about inoculum production for nextyear. In that case, one or two mid- to late season applications of an inexpensive sterol inhibitor fungicide (e.g., a generic tebuconazole) will suffice to reduce infection and production of cleistothecia. Alternatively, a single application of a contact fungicide, such as JMS Stylet Oil (or otheroil), in late August to early September can knock out cleisthothecium production on existing colonies. In the latter case, thorough coverage is essential, for example, by using a higher spray volume and spraying every row.
Downy mildew is likely to be more harmful than powdery mildew, at least in ‘Niagara’ grapes, as it can lead to severe defoliation and reduced winter hardiness of the vine. Even though vines with a small crop load can withstand more downy mildew than heavily cropped vines, it should not be allowed to go completely out of control. This is also important from the standpoint of overwintering inoculum for next year. I would recommend scouting of vineyards in mid-July. If downy mildew lesions are observed, anapplication of a phosphorous acid product (i.e., Phostrol) is recommended to stop sporulation and further spread. A booster spray five days later will improve control. Scout again two to three weeks later to check if further control is needed.
Less costly protectant fungicides are copper products (for non-copper sensitive varieties), captan (not allowed on juice grapes after bloom), and Ziram. Some of the newer downy mildew fungicides, such as Reason and Forum, are also relatively inexpensive and are best applied as protectants. Obviously, the use of broader-spectrum materials will benefit control of other diseases as well and may give you more “bang for your buck” per spray application.
Fruit rot diseases. Black rot<> and Phomopsis<> are the main cluster diseases to be considered in juice grapes if there is sufficient fruit to harvest, especially if there is a lot of overwintering inoculum. If your vineyard had low disease pressure last year, fungicide applications may not be as critical this year. Black rot control should be focused around bloom, with the first and second post-bloom sprays being most important. There is generally no need to protect the fruit beyond the second post-bloom spray, because the berries become naturally resistant to infection about four to five weeks after bloom. An inexpensive sterol inhibitor fungicide will suffice; ziram may be added to broaden the control spectrum to include Phomopsis and downy mildew.
Phomopsis control becomes important as soon as the flower clusters become visible, which will happen a little bit later this year and may be variable as we will rely more on the secondary buds. Phomopsis spores will be released during most rain events from bud break until about bunch closing. A peak in spore production usually occurs around the first and second week in May, which may be a good time to protect shoots from infection. During dry spells, fewer sprays will be necessary. The first post-bloom spray is also an important spray for Phomopsis and can be combined with the black rot spray. Mancozeb is a cost-effective material for use against Phomopsis prior to bloom, and Ziram or a phosphorous acid fungicide can be used after bloom. For growers who have already applied a dormant spray, this will help reduce disease pressure of Phomopsis and black rot through the season.
Because cluster protection is the main focus of areduced insect and disease control program for frost damaged sites, it is best to target sprays to the fruiting zone to maximize the effectiveness of sprays. Coverage is particularly important as increased canopy size due to a small crop may impede spray penetration. For effective grape berry moth and fruit rot control, spray deposits must reach the whole cluster. This becomes more challenging as the vine canopy grows and so as the season progresses, sprayvolume should be increased and every row should be treated. Field trials with an airblast sprayer have shown that a spray volume of 50 gpa achieved substantially better disease control, particularly with protectant fungicides, than a spray volume of 20 gpa. The same result was found for control of grape berry moth – increasing gallonage to 50 gallons provided better control than 20 gallons. Although this will take more time, getting the maximum effect out of every spray is particularly important when yield is expected to be low.

Product selection
Under times of financial challenge, the temptation may be to choose the least expensive option to achieve control. This may seem the best choice, but it is good to keep in mind other factors. For example, is the product effective under the current and predicted weather conditions; how long does it last; and how well will it control the target pest or disease? In the long run, it may be more cost-effective to use a slightly more expensive product that lasts longer than the cheapest option.

When cutting back on sprays, make every one count. Making sure that applications are made at the optimal stage for control of your target pest is another way to help cut costs. It may take a little more time to check vineyards closely every few days, but doing this can be a cost-effective way to improve the impact of your spray program. By doing this, you may also find that pests and diseases are not as bad as expected, and the cost of anapplication can be saved.
Drs. Isaac’s and Schilder’s work is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch<>.
Adjusted insect and disease control approaches in frost-damaged juice grape vineyards with no harvest or partial harvest*


No  harvest

Partial harvest

Budswell/1- to 2- inch shoots

Sprays of lime sulfur, sulfur or copper at this time may be an inexpensive means to reduce powdery mildew pressure during the growing season.

Sprays of lime sulfur, sulfur or copper at this time can provide a substantial reduction in Phomopsis and black rot pressure; powdery mildew will also be reduced by sulfur; in some years, we have seen a reduction in downy mildew from a copper dormant spray.


No insect or disease control needed.

Control of Phomopsis needed only if it was a problem last year. No insect or disease control needed.

Bloom/ Post-bloom

No insect or disease control needed.

Insect control not needed.
If field has history of black rot or Phomopsis, this is the best time to apply at least one spray for control. First post-bloom most important.


Foliage protection from insect pests is unlikely to be needed.
Scout for downy mildew and treat if infections are common.

Foliage protection from insect pests is unlikely to be needed.
Check clusters for grape berry moth infestation. The MSU model predicts egglaying starting at 810 degree days after wild bloom.
If controlling black rot and Phomopsis, stop after second post-bloom spray. Scout for downy mildew and treat if infections are common.


Foliage protection from insect pests is unlikely to be needed.
Scout for downy mildew and powdery mildew and treat if infections are common (downy mildew) or to reduce inoculum production (powdery mildew)

Check clusters for grape berry moth infestation. The MSU model predicts egglaying starting at 1620 degree days after wild bloom. If a fourth generation occurs,   this is predicted to start egglaying at 2430 degree days after wild bloom.
Scout for downy mildew and treat if infections are common. At this time, it is unlikely that powdery mildew will have a negative impact, but an eradicant application can be made to reduce inoculum production.

* Guidelines should be complemented by weekly scouting for pests.

State office can help Michigan farms find labor
April 2012
Last year marked the first time Michigan farms had difficulty finding enough labor to harvest their crops, said Belen Ledezma, division director for Migrant, Immigrant and Seasonal WorkerServices with the state of Michigan.

With job openings in ag abundant, finding the right kind of skilled labor can be difficult. That is where Ledezma's office comes in, she said in a presentation given at the West Michigan Ag Labor meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., in February.

Ledezma's office runs the Agricultural Recruiting Service (ARS) out of Michigan Works!, the job fulfillment office of the Michigan Department of Labor. ARS actively recruits for agriculture andspecializes in filling jobs with migrant workers. Having a shortage of workers raised a red flag for Ledezma.

"Last year, we had 18,000 contracts for labor issued," Ledezma said. "We were only able to fill 13,000. That is a loss of 5,000 contracts, meaning we were unable to fill those positions. We've never had an issue filling contracts before."

Growers who need labor should be aware of the services ARS offers. Notify the office of your labor needs at least eight weeks prior to the time you actually need it, to give them time to recruit for you, she said. Be specific about what you want in a worker, what crops will be worked with and the employment period.

There are some requirements for growers as well, Ledezma said, such as a contract that is binding. Wages must be the highest of the three between the state of Michigan minimum wage, the national minimum wage or the highest prevailing wage in your area for similar work. Piece-rate work and bonuses must also be spelled out in full detail, as well as any deductions. Housing must also be provided at no additional cost and be available to family members. Transportation is not a requirement, unless it is a prevailing trend in your area.

"If all the farms in your area are paying the transportation costs to get labor, then you will be required to as well," Ledezma said. "If we're bringing in workers for you from Florida or Texas, you might want to consider offering transportation anyway, as a way to ensure your labor needs are filled."

There is a reason Ledezma suggests making this offer. With the current climate for immigration reform and several states passing Arizona-style regulations, many migrant workers are unwilling to make major cross-country moves to find work, she said.

"They aren't willing to risk it, even when they are legal," she said. "It can be a major hassle, and too much for some to be willing to deal with."

When Ledezma's office has sufficient job request orders, it often will set up a job fair in Texas or Florida. Technology can help the process. Web cams or Skype can allow employers to interview potential workers and hire them on the spot, she said.

Ledezma made one point very clear. The ARS office does not fill out I-9 or E-Verify paperwork. Those tasks are strictly the responsibility of the grower after the work is hired. She alsosaid the contracts are binding to the grower only. There is nothing binding the employee, other than a desire to work.

"You have to keep in mind that the workers that you're going to attract through this type of program - they want to work," Ledezma said. "If you've got good housing and are paying a competitive wage, they will come, stay and work for you."

By Derrek Sigler, Assistant Editor

New Web-based tool helps growers gauge sustainability
By Vicky Boyd, Editor
Bayer CropScience of Reserach Triangle Park, N.C., has introduced the Good Growing Link, a web-based program that allows growers to analyze their practices for sustainability and generate reports.

Although the tool was tested last season in tomatoes, potatoes and citrus, it theoretically could be used for any crop, Brian Hrudka, Bayer CropScience food chain manager, wrote in an e-mail response.

The password-protected website was developed by FoodLogiQ LLC of Durham, N.C.

The tool is designed to meet the increasing requests for sustainability data from buyers to which growers sell, he says.

Good Growing Link contains components, such as water, emissions, pesticides and soil, that are based on the GlobalReporting Initiative sustainability reporting framework, Hrudka says.

There are no set targets. Instead, the tool allows growers to record, measure and report on their own operation, set their own targets or measure against targets set by buyers.

Users enter their own growing and production information or use data derived from other sources.

The tool then generates a customized Web-based report, known as a dashboard or a snapshot.

Users either can link directly to their own website for public review, or they can print a hard copy to send to customers.

During the 2011 season, Bayer teamed with the National Potato Council to pilot test the Good Growing Link tool with three large potato growers—Wada Farms, a fresh-stock grower based in Pingree, Idaho; Warden Hutterian Brethren, a Warden, Wash.-based grower for the french fry market; and Black Gold Farms, a chipping stock grower based in Grand Forks, N.D.

Black Gold started working with thetool early this year.

"We're not far enough along to really have a good handle on it, but we anticipate good things out of it," says Eric Halverson, Black Gold vice president of technology.

The operation collects data on a multitude of practices from irrigation to pesticide applications.

The challenge will be to move the volumes of data into the Good Growing Link tool.

"It's a cumbersome project, no doubt about it," Halverson says.

But he says he's hopeful that the tool will produce information that's meaningful to both the operation and their chipping customer.

"We wouldn't have gone into this unless it was going to be of value to our customers," Halverson says.

Once they transfer the data and compile the reports, he says they may have to slightly modify the output based on customer suggestions.

That's why Bayer wanted to have a representative from each sector, Halverson says. A fresh-market customer may have slightly different needs as far as sustainability than a chipping or french fry customer.

The beta testing will continue during the 2012 season to gauge user friendliness and the appropriateneses of the information for buyers.

Finding answers with on-farm crop research
Well-carried out on-farm research can help farmers determine if added inputs or changed practices really do provide a positive return on their farm.
Published April 3, 2012
Dan Rossman, Michigan State University Extension

High corn and soybean values enhance farmers’ desires to achieve maximize economic yields. Producers are faced with decisions about whether to add additional inputs or chance production practices. These might include foliar fungicides, specialized fertilizers, advanced genetic traits, seed treatments, tillage systems, planting methods, seeding rates, the use of cover crops, addition of irrigation, adoption of new technology, utilization of manure or countless other choices. Each one is promoted to add yield and gain net profit. The question is, “Do they really accomplish this?” The product or practice might work well for a researcher or another farmer, but it might not be a good choice for everyone. Well-designed, on-farm research projects can help determine the answer for a producer’s specific situation and conditions.

Valuable on-farm research projects start with a well-designed plan or protocol. It is not worthwhile comparing the practice or product used in one field to a field without it or even in a single, side-by-side evaluation in the same field. The results can be totally misleading. Variable conditions exist even in the most uniform fields. Tilelines, soil types, compaction, fertility and pest pressure are just a few variables that may over power the treatment and give false conclusions. To help insure that the comparison results are indeed due to the practice or product and not some other variable, multiple replications of the treatment need to be conducted.

A good rule of thumb in conducting on-farm research is to keep it simple. Test just one input or practice at atime. Also, take time to select a site that is as uniform as possible. Try to have at least four replications of each treatment. On-farm research gains its power in replication. More comparisons increase the confidence in the results. The conclusions are further validated if similar results occur over severalyears and over numerous sites.

Assistance in conducting an on-farmresearch comparison can come from your agribusiness agronomist or MSU Extension educator. They may have protocols already developed for you to utilize. They may also provide assistance in the field in setting up the trial and obtaining data at harvest. If the trial is set up properly, they can help run the statistical analysis with the results. The Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee is especially interested in working with soybean producers with on-farm research trials. Mike Staton, MSU Senior Extension educator, coordinates the SMaRT soybean trials statewide. He can be contacted at 269-673-0370.

Michigan field crop Extension educators also work with farmers on a regular basis in conducting on- farm trials. Each year, the results of dozens of trials are shared statewide through the Field Crop Team’s On-farm Research and Demonstration report. This report is available at most MSU Extension county offices

Frost alarm available now on Enviro-weather
Get notified of potentially freezing conditions 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Published April 3, 2012

If you’d like to receive advanced warning of potential frost-freezes, Enviro-weather’s new Frost Alarm may be just what you are looking for. This new, premium service is available by subscription. For $50 per year, you can monitor weather at one or more Enviro-weather stations and choose the exact weather conditions you wish to be notified for. If the selected station records weather data meeting your specified conditions, an alarm is generated and you are notified by text message or email.

For each station chosen, you can select a combination of temperature, dew point, wind speed and temperature drop (over a three-hour period). For example, you can choose to receive a notification if the temperature at your chosen station drops below 32°F (Service #3, see image).

You can combine as many weather conditions (temperature, temperature drop, wind speed and dew point) as youwish for an alarm. For example, you can choose to be notified if the dew point is less than 32°F and the wind speed was less than 5 mph (Service #1, see image). In that case, an alarm would be generated if dew point was 29°F and the wind speed was 4 mph, but not if the dew point was 29°F and the wind speed was 7 mph.

You can also create multiple “situations” (unique combination of conditions) for a station. Each “situation” will generate a separate alarm when conditions are met. For example, you can create an alarm if the temperature is less than 35°F and the temperature dropped at least 6 degrees over the past three hours, or if the dew point was less than 33°F (Service #2, see image). An alarm would be generated if either of these two scenarios occurred.

You can also choose to monitor conditions at as many stations as you wish. The user in the image has set alarms for three different stations (Bath, East Lansing MSUHort, and Leslie). To sign up for the Frost Alarm, please visit:
For more information, please contact Beth Bishop at [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask] or 517-432-6520 with your questions, comments and suggestions

Animal Production

‘Pink slime’ is not really pink slime
Recent media stories regarding so called 'pink slime' are missing key facts regarding lean, finely textured ground beef.
Published March 30, 2012
Jeannine Schweihofer, Sarah Wells, Michigan State University Extension and Departments of Human Nutrition and Animal Science

Lean, finely textured beef (LFTB) is the proper term for the beef product that is being referred to as ‘pink slime’ in recent media reports. It is beef, 100% beef, but in a finely textured version. The safety concern that many have expressed is not valid. The process used for making LFTB from beef trimmings is an approved process by both USDA and FDA.

Not all beef can become a steak or roast. When meat cuts are trimmed to remove excess fat, some lean is also removed, resulting in beef trim that has a high percentage of fat. It would take too much time with a knife and highly skilled meat cutter to separate this product manually, butagain it is pure beef that is being removed from trim pieces that include fat and/or connective tissue. Briefly, the process of making LFTB is as follows: Beef trim that includes fat, small pieces of meat, and bits of connective tissue is heated to about 100° F. The beef is then spun to separate the lean from the fat/connective tissue. Because the temperature of the meat is raised above refrigeration temperatures in the process, there is potential for microbial pathogens present to replicate more rapidly at this temperature. Any time there is potential for microbial growth, food processors must include an intervention step that will minimize the risk. Thus, a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas is applied to the beef. This increases the pH of the meat andcreates an environment that does not allow pathogens that might be present to survive.

The ammonium hydroxide gas added almost entirely evaporates; hence, it is not considered a food additive. The resulting product is still 100% beef. The process BPI uses has been approved and used for 30 years without being involved in a recall or safety related issue. Ammonium hydroxide is a naturally occurring compound in beef, other proteins and thehuman body. Actually, it is used in many other foods during processing as well, both for food safety and as a leavening agent. The use of ammonium hydroxide is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Examples of other foods that use ammonium hydroxide during processing include cheeses, baked goods, chocolates, puddings, caramels and other foods. If any levels of ammonium hydroxide do exist in foods, it is at a very small level that has been tested and determined safe by both USDA and FDA.

Approximately 10-12 pounds of 94-97% lean beef is recovered from each carcass using this process. The LFTB is blended with other ground beef at a rate of no more than 15%. Thus, LFTB can be added to ground beef of higher fat content resulting in a leaner end product while maintaining the desirable texture of traditionally ground beef. The USDA has reiterated the safety of LFTB but the National School Lunch Program will now have the choice of purchasing ground beef with or without LFTB. Economists expect a spike in price and potential shortage of lean and very lean ground beef as major fast food and grocery chains have pulled LFTB from the ground beef they use as aresult of consumer backlash. Currently, the beef industry has the lowest inventory since 1952. It is estimated that 1.5 million more head of cattle per year would need to be harvested to compensate supply if LFTB is not used. Ultimately, not utilizing LFTB could lead to increased imports of lean trim(from Australia and S. America) to fill the demand for lean ground beef.

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