Michigan Organic Listserv
August 19, 2012
Offered to you by Center for Regional Food Systems at MSU
There is no intention to support any product or commercial enterprise in this newsletter by MSU or Morrone
NEWS IN AGRICULTURE
USDA Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) [Source]
The primary objective of the VAPG program is to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the end goals of this program. You may receive priority if you are a beginning farmer or rancher, a socially-disadvantaged farmer or rancher, a small or medium-sized farm or ranch structured as a family farm, a farmer or ranchercooperative, or are proposing a mid-tier value chain, as defined in the Program Regulation. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis.
Application deadline is October 15.
Estimated Program Funding: $14 million
Maximum Grant Amount: $100,000 for planning grants; $300,000 for working capital grants
Cost Sharing Requirement: Cash or eligible in-kind matching funds equal to at least the amount of grant funds requested
After a spring and early summer full of endless rumors, a whole lot of political posturing, and a couple marathon days of hearings and votes, Congress is headed home for August recess… without passing the 2012 Farm Bill.
The full Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill in June and the House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the bill in mid-July. The current Farm Bill (passed in 2008) does not expire until September 30, so it is possible for Congress to finish the process and pass a new bill when they come back intosession in September. The next step in a normal process would be for the full House to vote on the committee version and then for the House and Senate tohold a conference committee to reconcile their versions of the bill. ()
But it’s looking less likely that this year’s process will be anything close to normal. As veteran agriculture journalist Phil Brasher said last Friday in a trade publication, “The bill could become mired in political crossfire this fall.” The political crossfire could take many different forms, but the short version is that if the House agriculture committee version of the bill goes to the House floor, there might not be enough votes to pass it. Some Democratswill oppose it because of the deep cuts it makes in nutrition programs likeSNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and some conservative Republicans willoppose it because those cuts aren’t deeper.
One of many scenarios about how this bill will eventually be finished is that it may never receive a vote from the full House, and instead the House Agriculture Committee version (or a bill to extend the 2008 Farm Bill for one year, or a disaster assistance bill, or about 3 other possibilities) is with the bill the Senate already passed. In any of the scenarios, it’s a messy process that skips a major step where members of the House who are not on the Agriculture Committee would have a chance to amend the bill.
There are a of things that should be amended in the House agriculture committee version. From regulation of genetically engineered crops, to country of origin labeling, to organic to fair livestock markets, to conservation, the House bill is a mess. But the odds of that happening go way down if the bill never sees the House floor.
Ifyou’ve been tracking the Farm Bill process, you have likely heard a lot about the urgent need to pass a new bill this year. There’s a good reason for that: even if the 2008 Farm Bill is extended, a bunch of good programs for beginning farmers, conservation, organic production and other important issues, go away. The way to preserve these programs is to pass a brand new bill. Problem is, the proposals we are looking at for a new Farm Bill are not so hot. The Senate bill is better, but leaves a lot to be desired on many fronts.
As I mentioned earlier, the House bill is, to be polite, a mess. So welcome to the rock and the hard place: extend the old bill and lose critical programs or work with two unsatisfactory bills to create a whole new Farm Bill and keep (most of) those programs alive.
And then there’s the drought…While things just keep getting worse in a huge portion of farm country, a lot of the programs designed to aid farmers and ranchers in a disaster need to be renewed. As the Democratic leadership of the Senate likes to point out, one way to fix that is to pass a new version of the Farm Bill that includes disaster programs. Or as the House did on their way out of town this week, you can pass a that just deals with disaster assistance (the House bill dealt mostly with programs to provide assistance to livestock producers who are not usually covered by crop insurance, and paid for it by cutting conservation programs.)
This will be what members of Congress “message” about in August. And it does need to be dealt with, because this drought is a huge problem for producers all over the country. But this debate about short-term relief and the politics of the Farm Bill misses a lot of the big picture – why farmers (and eaters) are left so unprotected when things go wrong in the food system. Whether it’s shortages caused by drought, or surpluses caused by bumper crops, extreme swings in crop prices aren’t good for farmers or eaters over the long term.
Weused to have farm policies designed to try to even out some of this volatility, by managing the supply of major commodity crops like corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains. By the time the 1996 Farm Bill was done, so were these programs. The first step in fixing this would be to create a grain reserve – a novel concept that has been used since ancient civilizations, on the premise thatsometimes things like drought happen and it’s a good idea to have some supplies on hand to ride it out.
Reserves can also be used to protect farmers when they have a great year – and that overproduction drives down prices. Some of that bumper crop can go into the reserve, instead of onto the market, to help them get a fair price. The National Farmers Union has a for creating a farmer-controlled reserve program that Congress should be incorporating into the next Farm Bill. This would start to deal with the long-term problem of creating a stable food supply, rather than using the latest crisis as a talking point in their political battles.
ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE IN AGRICULTURE
USDA Announces Low-Interest Emergency Loans to Producers in 172 Additional Counties due to Drought –
Obama continues to take swift action to provide assistant to farmers, ranchers and businesses. [Source]
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2012—As part of continuing steps by the Obama Administration to get assistance to producers impacted by the drought, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today designated 172 additional counties in 15 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. To date, USDA has designated 1,792 counties as disaster areas—1,670 due to drought.
Earlier this week, President Obama and Secretary Vilsack traveled to Iowa to announce USDA's intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, which will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand.
"USDA is committed to using its resources wherever possible to help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted by the drought," said Vilsack. "In the past month, we have streamlined the disaster designation process, reduced interest rates on emergency loans, and provided flexibility within our conservation programs to support struggling producers. In the weeks ahead, the President and I will continue to take swift action to help America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time."
Vilsack also announced today the availability of up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to help producers build additional resiliency into their production systems. NRCS is offering the grants to partnering entities to evaluate innovative, field-based conservation technologies and approaches. These technologies and/or approaches should lead to improvements such as enhancing the water-holding capacity insoils and installing drought-tolerant grazing systems, which will help farms and ranches become more resilient to drought. Visit for more information.
Additionally, in response to a request from five National Organic Program (NOP) certifying agents, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced that USDA will grant a temporary variance from NOP's pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers (Sections 205.237(c) and 205.240 of the USDA organic regulations) in 16 states in 2012. The following restrictions apply: this temporary variance applies to non-irrigated pasture only; producers must supply at least 15 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture; this temporary variance applies to the 2012 calendar year only; and this temporary variance covers only counties that have been declared as primary natural disaster areas by the Secretary of Agriculture in 2012. Granting a temporary variance for 2012 from the pasture practice standards is necessary in order to allow organic ruminant livestock producers to continue to be compliant with the program regulations after the severe drought ends and pasture forage becomes available. Temporary variance requests that are outside the scope of this variance will be considered on a case by case basis.
Last week, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, a number of new measures the Administration is taking. The President stressed the need for the entire Administration tocontinue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.
The indicates that 63 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought. Approximately 87 percent of the U.S. corn is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 85 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in adrought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24. On Aug. 10, USDA reduced the estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop to 123.4 bushels per acre,down 23.8 bushels from 2011. However, record corn plantings in 2012 have put the crop in position to be eighth largest in history. In 1988, when U.S. farmers were impacted by another serious drought, total production was 4.9 billion bushels. Today, total production is forecast at 10.8 billion bushels.
Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA's drought response and assistance.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods inAmerican history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA's crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past 3 years, USDA provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Click here to see primary counties and corresponding states designated as disaster areas today for drought and other reasons.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans in Michigan
By US Small Business Administration
ATLANTA - The U.S. Small Business Administration announced today that federal economic injury disaster loans are available to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and mostprivate non-profit organizations of all sizes located in Michigan as a result of drought that began on July 17, 2012.
The SBA’s disaster declaration includes the following counties: Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Saint Joseph and Van Buren in Michigan.
“When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to eligible entities affected by the same disaster,” said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.
Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. With the exception of aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, or ranchers. Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions.
The loan amount can be up to $2 million with interest rates of 3 percent for private non-profit organizations of all sizes and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines eligibility based on the size of the applicant, type of activity and its financial resources. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred. The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.
Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela
Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to mailto:[log in to unmask]. Loan applications can be downloaded from http://www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
Completed loan applications must be returned to SBA no later than March 25, 2013. For more information about the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program, visit our website at http://www.sba.gov.
Cover crops are grown throughout the world to complement crop needs in the field, while enhancing soil quality.
The use of cover crops spans thousands of years — bell beans during the height of the Roman Empire and lupines in northern Europe were grown to improve sandy soils. In the 1930s, use of cover crops became an intricate part of farmingsystems in America due to the impact of the Great Dust Bowl, when topsoil was blown away with weeks of high winds in the Central Plains. Responding to these natural disasters, the USDA Soil Conservation Service was established to help farmers implement technologies to reduce soil erosion.
The goal of using cover crops has often been to conserve topsoil. Since the advent of chemical fertilizers, cover crops have not been relied upon much to feed crops. There was increasing dependency on chemical fertilizers to provide macro-nutrients (N, P, K) to crops in the late 1930s. Chemical fertilizers were simpler to apply and provided the crops with quick access to nutrients, but their value stops there.
Cover crops offer multiple benefits for crops and soil, acting as chemical, biological and physical soil amendments. Access to nutrients (macro and micro) is enhanced through covercrops, in addition to beneficial soil microbes and deep roots to improve water filtration. A good example of such a “multipurpose” cover crop is brassica species, including mustard and oil seed radish with roots that penetrate through heavy soil and break up heavy clay soil, making it easier for crop roots to access needed nutrients. Legume roots, such as medium red clover and hairy vetch, are highly effective at enhancing soil fertility via nodules — through a symbiotic partnership formed with bacteria to fix nitrogen and build soil fertility.
Beyond nitrogen, cover crops play a key role in ensuring that a wide range of nutrients is available for healthy crop growth. Vegetables vary in terms of nutrient requirements — for example, cabbage requires more manganese and zinc and broccoli more boron. Adding a micronutrient for each crop’s needs is laborious, and timing is tricky. But enhancing soil organic matter will often improve availability of the micronutrients that are present, thus supporting healthy vegetable crop production. A soil that is rich in beneficial soil microbes will enhance nutrient availability, breaking down organic matter to make nutrients available to crops.
Cover crops help build soil organic matter, particularly when combined with compost or manure. Often, cover crops are selected primarily for aboveground contributions when, in fact, belowground attributes are equally, if not more, valuable to the soil and subsequent crops. The organic inputs from roots provide habitat, an energy source for soil microorganisms and carbon that can be sequestered to build organic matter.
To gain all of these benefits, it is important to find the right window to maximize the benefits of growing a cover crop. One approach is to invest in planting the seed with a seed-drill, to assure good stand establishment and maximize the return on seed purchase and labor.
Selecting the right cover crop depends on what your soil needs and the time of year available to grow a crop. The soil analysis will identify what it will take to produce a healthy and productive crop. This information combined with a cropping plan and basic knowledge of soil physical properties helps identify which cover crops and market crops to grow.
A valuable reference tool that will assist in planning soil testing and steps to improve soil quality is the “”It offers a guide to selecting soil analyses and tables to monitor the soil.
By , , American Vegetable Growers, June, 2012 [Source]
The use of vegetable transplants has increased steadily in recent years. The advantages of using transplants aremany: uniform and robust
growth, healthy root system, and earliness in cropharvest. They are also generally free of pest and diseases. Production of transplants, especially organic, involves advance planning and optimum utilization of available greenhouse resources. This is more critical
in the case of vegetable transplants like tomato, pepper, and celery that are in the greenhouse for longer periods (six to eight weeks).
Growing transplants organically calls for meticulous planning and must follow the rules laid out by the National Organic Program. Growers need to plan their course of action well in advance in order to produce viable and healthy transplants for field production. One of the most essential components of any transplant production operation is the growing medium.
Growing medium provides a suitable environment for seed germination and supplies support and nutrients for subsequent growth of seedlings.
Finding The Right Medium
Many commercially prepared organic mixes and blends are available, but they can be expensive and might not meet organic standards. Starter fertilizers and wetting agents in those mixes limit their use under National Organic Program standards.
Most organic growers either grow their own transplants or buy them from local markets. When growing transplants, special emphasis should be given to the quality of the growing medium. It should be uniform, have proper structure and texture, and should also provide essential nutrients. Most common ingredients of a growing medium are peat, vermiculite, and compost.
Use of compost has become one of the central planks of any organic production enterprise. Media comprising of a combination of peat and compost provides adequate aeration,
improves water-holding capacity, and serves as a nutrient source for the emerging seedlings. Compost also promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the rhizosphere/root zone.
Even though compost is an excellent nutrient source, proper monitoring and handling is necessary for its use in organic transplant production. Growersshould verify the source of compost in order to eliminate the presence of harmful microorganisms, pests, heavy metals, and other toxic substances. It is important to use optimum quantities of compost when formulating a growing medium. Incorporation of large quantities of compost in transplant medium can lead to increased salinity which adversely affects seed germination and seedling growth. Based on our experience, we have found that a transplant production medium comprising of peat, vermiculite, and compost in the ratio 2:1:1 (by volume) serves as an excellent transplant production medium.
One of the biggest limiting factors for organic transplant production is the supply of nitrogen. Addition of compost alone in the growing medium does not meet nutrient requirements for optimum transplant growth. Moreover, transplants remain in the greenhouse for six to eight weeks, depending upon crop type, which brings up an additional factor of providing and managing an efficientnutrient supply. To provide nitrogen and other additional nutrients, growers should incorporate, top dress, or liquid-feed transplants with organic fertilizers and amendments.
Organic fertilizers that can be incorporated include blood meal, alfalfa meal, soybean meal, hoof and horn meal, and feather meal, among others. Results from our lab on the use of an alfalfa-based amendment (Bradfield Organics) for organic tomato transplant production have been promising. The alfalfa meal amendment tested produced healthy and quality transplants similar to those produced with synthetic fertilizer (20:20:20), however, it is important that the amendment is used in the proper way.
It is also very important, to avoid any germination problems, that the amendment is incorporated in the media and incubated for one to two weeks before seeding. Many plant- and animal-based fertilizers need to be incubated with potting media for one to two weeks before being used for seeding. Liquid and foliar fertilizers are also an excellent source for providing quick and readily available nitrogen. Some soluble organic nitrogen sources include fish emulsion, worm castings, compost tea, and seaweed extract.
In general, formulation of organic transplant production medium needs careful manipulation of ingredients like compost. Use of plant- and animal-based amendments together with compost can enhance transplant growth. In addition, use of such amendments help recycle plant/animal residues for the production of nutrition supplements for greenhouse transplant production.
Editor’s Note: Nair is an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University ([log in to unmask]). Ngouajio and Biernbaum are in the Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University.
USDA National Organic Program Certifier List
NOP-Accredited Organic Certifying Agencies Registered in Michigan
Thinkingabout checking out organic certification for your farm business. Here is the list if possible certifyers. Check out each one carefully to match your expectations with the right one. Visit www.MichiganOrganic.msu.edu
Clean Sweep, Emergency Spill Response Demonstration and Tour- Crop Production Services Fall Ag Day
What: Crop Production Services for our Fall Ag Day
Date: September 6th, 2012
The morning will feature a Clean Sweep event from 8:00 am to noon at the CPS warehouse in Sunfield. As part of the clean sweep program, Michigan residents can bring in agricultural pesticides (including herbicides, fungicides, andinsecticides) and mercury for free safe disposal. The afternoon portion of the day will be at the CPS Woodbury facility and will include a free lunch, MAEAP Phase 1 informational meeting presented by local technicians, pesticide spill safety demonstration, CPS facility tour and current production updates by CPS professionals. Individuals interested in participating in the afternoon areencouraged to RSVP before September 3rd to ensure lunch availability by calling the Ionia Conservation District at (616) 527-2620. Attendees will be eligible to receive MAEAP phase 1, RUP and CCA credits.
Cover Crops and No-Till in the Thumb
Date: September 6, 2012 | 9 AM to 1 PM – including lunch
Location: Wells Township Hall- 2190 Frankford Rd., Caro 48723
Field site: Murray/Frankford Rd. (Jim Kratz’s Farm)
· Cover Crops that work best for no-till systems
· Herbicide strategies to prevent weed resistance in no-till
· Benefits of cover crops
· Control of aggressive cover crop selections in no-till
· MAEAP verification process
· Cost share opportunities in GLRI watersheds to utilized cover crops
· Paul Gross-MSU Extension
· Christina Currell-MSU Extension
· Tom Young-MDA
· Caroline Schadd-NRCS
There is no charge for this meeting, but Please call the Tuscola Conservation District by Friday, August 31st, to get lunch count – 989-673-8174 x-3
Bio Intensive Agriculture & Food Security Webinar
You might be interested in these upcoming free 1-hour webcasts featuring projects from the MetroAg Innovation course that was offered in the offered in the spring.
Date: Monday, September 10 | 11:00 AM EST
CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR LIVE WEBCAST.
Presenter: Michael Leech, Horticulturist and PhD Student of Urban Agriculture in Municipal Environments in Durban, South Africa
Panelist: Henk Van Latesteijn
Intensive Agriculture & Food Security: Featuring Michael Leech’s project to teach bio intensive agriculture to those interested in growing sufficient food for their families and to sell to their communities in an effort to improve youth development, increase
employment opportunities and decrease
spending on community health care.
When: September 11-12, 2012.
This year’s tour will showcase farm families who have successfully explored and seized opportunities to enhance the profitability of their operations. The stops will feature sustainable farming systems, diversified enterprises, organic operations, livestock for specialty markets, farmer-owned retail markets, cooperative ventures, value-added enterprises, and direct marketing strategies, as well as many other examples of how family farmers are finding ways to be more profitable while enjoying it as well. Participants will view on the stops hoop houses, CSA's, farm markets, dairy processing, agri-entertainment, fruit processing, food hubs, vineyards, an off-the-gridhomestead, pastured beef, a fiber mill, and much more.
Fee of $125 per person includes the two full days with meals included. Click here to register online today!
We’ve Got You Covered: MAEAP, Food Safety, and Seasonal High Tunnels
When: Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 6-8 PM
Where: Lovely-Parr Garden and Farm, 7566 South 5th Street, Mattawan, MI 49071
Please join us and learn about how you can extend your growing season with a seasonal high tunnel (or hoop house) and about possible cost-share opportunities available with USDA Natural Resources ConservationService (NRCS) Farm Bill programs. You will also learn about on-farm food safety and growing your food in an environmentally friendly manner and willhave the opportunity to tour the farm and the seasonal high tunnel.
This workshop will give attendees a clear understanding of different food safety options and how you can become food safety certified and environmentally verified through the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). Marketing strategies will be discussed to show you how to use these certifications in your business plan and to promote your products locally.
For more information and to RSVP call: The Kalamazoo Conservation District at 1-269-327-1258 ext. 4
Michigan Ag Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Technician
Allegan County Conservation District is seeking a full-time specialist to assist landowners with land treatment and conservation practices. Duties include field work, plan development and hosting workshops. Minimum BS in agriculture or natural resources related degree and two years experience infield work or natural resources. Full job description can be found at . Send cover letter, resume and three references to by Aug 24.
Watershed Project Coordinator
The Allegan Conservation District is hiring a Watershed Project Coordinator for the Rabbit River Watershed Project. This full-time position is funded through MDEQ Nonpoint Source Program. Duties include outreach to local landowners focusing on water quality protection; delivering workshops, webinars and preparing newsletters; developing Conservation Plans; leading steering committee meetings; and preparing grant reports. A bachelor’s degree in natural resource management or related field is required. For more information, go to . Send cover letter, resume and 3 references to by Aug 24.