Michigan Organic Listserv

Nov 28, 2016

Center for Regional Food System


For farmers and people interested in organic agriculture and opportunities


Questions and ideas contact Vicki Morrone ([log in to unmask])


What’s on offer?

Last Minute Opportunity

News about the National Organic Program (NOP) and Sustainable Agriculture

Pollination News Update

Educational Opportunities

Employment Opportunities

Funding Opportunities






Last Minute Opportunity….


A Pollination Forum

Date: Monday November 28, 2016
Time: 6 - 8 p.m.
Location: Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, East Lansing, MI
Contact: Katie Steinman, 517-884-0396, [log in to unmask]

A Pollination Forum will be held on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016 at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing, MI from 6 - 8 p.m. Keynote speaker, Marla Spivak, will begin at 6 p.m. with ICP Project Highlights to follow. Cash bar, free hors d’oeuvres and poster display will be from 7:15 - 8 p.m. This is a free event, but you must be registered in order to attend. Please click the “Register Online” button below to reserve your spot. Limited seating available.

Event is sponsored by the Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources,

Click here to Register No it is not too late!




News about the National Organic Program (NOP)


What’s Organic? A Debate Over Dirt May Boil Down to Turf

The New York Times

by Stephanie Strom



If a fruit or vegetable isn’t grown in dirt, can it be organic?

That is the question roiling the world of organic farming, and the answer could redefine what it means to farm organically.


At issue is whether produce that relies solely on irrigation to deliver nutrients to plants — through what is known as hydroponic and aquaponic systems — can be certified organic. And the National Organic Standards Board, an advisory group that makes recommendations to the federal secretary of agriculture, will get an earful on the topic at its meeting in St. Louis this week.


On one side are the growing number of big and small growers raising fruits and vegetables in these soil-free systems. They say their production methods are no different from those of farmers who grow plants in dirt — and, they add, they make organic farming more sustainable by, for instance, reducing water use.


“Soil to me as a farmer means a nutrient-rich medium that contains biological processes, and that doesn’t have to be dirt,” said Marianne Cufone, an aquaponic farmer and the executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, which lobbies for aquaculture.  Not so, say the farmers who have spent years tending their soil so that it produces the nutrients plants need. They argue that organic production is first and foremost about caring for the soil, which produces environmental benefits that go beyond growing plants.

“Soil has always been the basis of organic production,” said Steve Sprinkel, an organic farmer in Ojai, Calif. “The soil is alive and releasing micronutrients to plants that use their roots to scavenge and forage those things, and so taking care of the soil is the bedrock of organic farming.”


Sales of organic food in the United States hit $40 billion last year, sending grocers scrambling to find enough organic produce to fill their cases. Keeping up with the demand is difficult and expensive, and financiers and entrepreneurs, many of them from Silicon Valley, have started pouring money into these alternative systems.

Whether the soil-free systems help bring down the price of organic products remains to be seen. Equipment like lighting and organic nutrients are expensive — soil growers count on their dirt to deliver some of those nutrients at no cost — and hydroponically and aquaponically grown fruits and vegetables usually are sold for the same price as organic produce grown in dirt.  “It’s like using an intravenous needle to administer exactly what we think the plant needs instead of allowing the plant to get what it needs in the amount it needs out of the ground,” said Dan Barber, a chef in New York and author of “The Third Plate.”


In the end, the decision about whether these growing systems can continue to be certified falls to the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2010, the Organic Standards Board recommended that hydroponic systems be ruled ineligible for organic certification because they excluded “the soil-plant ecology intrinsic to organic farming systems.” At that time, there were only 39 hydroponic growers with organic certification.


The U.S.D.A. has not acted on the board’s recommendation, allowing organic certification of crops grown in hydroponic systems to continue. According to a survey this year, the number of hydroponic growers with organic certification dropped to 30, but there were 22 certified aquaponic growers and 69 certified operations growing plants in containers lined with things like peat moss and coconut husks that do not provide nutrients on their own.


“The recommendation did not adequately address the diversity of practices and systems in the industry,” Miles McEvoy, the official who oversees the U.S.D.A.’s organic program, said in a statement.

Mr. McEvoy noted that the U.S.D.A. had assigned a task force to report on current practices — but that group split into two camps, mirroring the current debate.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 states: “An organic plan shall contain provisions designed to foster soil fertility, primarily through the management of the organic content of the soil through proper tillage, crop rotation and manuring.”


“To me, it seems simple and always has been,” said Sam Welsch, chief executive of OneCert, an organic certification business in Nebraska that has refused to certify hydroponic produce. “There are things the law and regulations require you to do to the soil that you cannot do in a hydroponic system.”

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry policy group, filed a legal complaint with the U.S.D.A. this month challenging certification of hydroponic produce and citing the federal law and regulations that govern organic farming. “They’ve illegally been allowing this to happen,” said Mark Kastel, co-founder of the organization, “and now millions of dollars have been invested in infrastructure and the industry is circling the wagons to protect it.”


The Organic Trade Association, which represents the industry, is lobbying in favor of allowing certification of hydroponically and aquaponically grown crops. Nate Lewis, its farm policy director, said some parts of the federal organic law were clearer than others.

He points to its language on cattle, saying it is clear the animals must have outdoor access and eat organic feed in order for their meat to be certified as organic. But the law for plants, he said, was not so obvious. “I would not agree that the law on this is black and white,” Mr. Lewis said.

David Chapman, an organic farmer in Vermont who has been a leader of the opposition to certifying produce from the new systems, said he would be driven out of business if the U.S.D.A. declared hydroponically grown tomatoes could be certified as organic.

“Most people have no idea that the organic tomatoes and peppers they’re buying are hydroponically grown,” Mr. Chapman said. “I think most consumers believe those things are grown in the soil, and that farmers like me are taking care of the soil as they grow them.”


Some 24 countries in Europe, including England, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as Mexico, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, do not allow organic certification for hydroponically grown produce.

Mr. Chapman said hydroponic producers there would like access to the American market, where they could label their products organic and charge a higher price. In fact, one big Canadian hydroponic grower, Golden Fresh Farms, began building 20 acres of greenhouses in Ohio this year. “In Holland, they’ve gotten so good at producing tomatoes hydroponically that they’ve destroyed their own market, so they’re desperate for access to the U.S. organic market,” he said.

Driscoll’s, the berry company, is one of the largest hydroponic growers, using the system to grow hundreds of acres of raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.


Soren Bjorn, an executive vice president of Driscoll’s, said growing the produce hydroponically was hardly different from what the company does when it grows its berries in sandy soils. “Part of the benefit of that is there’s no disease in the soil, but there’s also very little nutrition in sand,” he said. “So for certain kinds of berries, we add the vast majority of nutrients through irrigation.”

But Driscoll’s takes issue with describing its system as hydroponic. Rather, Mr. Bjorn said, it grows some of its organic berries in containers in beds of peat moss, coconut fiber or mulch. “Hydroponics may also be contained,” but it’s a water-based system, he said, “lettuce floating around on water, for instance.”


Mr. Lewis of the Organic Trade Association said, however, that little distinguishes a container system from a hydroponic system. “There really isn’t much difference,” he said.

Colin Archipley’s farm, Archi’s Acres, grows kale, herbs and other produce hydroponically in greenhouses in San Diego. He is frustrated that there is even a debate over whether his produce is organic.


“The reason this has become such a big deal is that systems like ours are becoming more popular because they’re more efficient, which means farmers are more sustainable and profitable,” he said. “That’s put competition on farmers, specifically in Vermont, and so what this really is about is market protection.”


Organic Center collaborates in USDA-funded grants to advance organic

Key funding awarded for research addressing critical and diverse organic issues

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire-US Newswire/ -- The issues facing today's organic sector are diverse and range from questions arising in organic fields and processing plants to conference halls and research laboratories. The Organic Center is thrilled to collaborate in three wide-ranging grants totaling over $2 million that will address key needs of today's organic industry. The grants were announced today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and will be funded by the agency's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).

"The organic sector has made great strides on its own," said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center. "But adequate government funding is vital to enabling research and other activities that help uphold the integrity of organic and advance the sector."

Sharing organic knowledge to increase adoption of organic

In May 2016, The Organic Center brought together a group of thought leaders including farmers, scientists, industry members and key policymakers in the first-ever Organic Confluences Summit. The ground-breaking conference looked at environmental areas where organic research could complement federal agricultural conservation and sustainability programs.

The Organic Center is delighted to be the recipient this year of a $50,000 grant to host a second Organic Confluences Summit in 2017. The goal of next year's conference will be to find ways to improve the dissemination and adoption of scientific research aimed at overcoming common challenges to organic production.

More American farmers are transitioning to organic every year, but despite the increased interest in organic agriculture, less than 1 percent of this country's farmland is organic. A critical challenge to boosting the further adoption of organic production in the U.S. is ensuring the adequate and broad dissemination of organic information to farmers and policymakers, including important organic research findings and other developments in organic agriculture.

While scientist are increasingly conducting research and developing new methods to address the diversity of obstacles faced by organic farmers, research results are often slow to reach growers. The need for better research dissemination and utilization also extends to policymakers. Agricultural issues are debated by lawmakers and translated into policy by executive agencies.  Scientific data are needed at every step to develop meaningful regulations, yet communication among scientists and policymakers is lacking.

Again spearheaded and coordinated by The Organic Center, the summit will be hosted in collaboration with USDA's Economic Research Service. Participants will include organic and transitioning farmers, researchers, extension agents, and key industry and policy influencers.

An organic alternative to celery powder in meat curing

An almost $40,000 grant (exact amount $38,564) was awarded to the University of Wisconsin, with The Organic Center and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) as collaborators, to help identify an organic alternative to conventional celery powder in curing organic meat and products.

Celery powder has been in use for over a decade as a "curing" agent in certain processed meat products as an alternative to sodium and potassium nitrate and nitrite. Since 2007, conventionally grown celery powder has been allowed for use in certified organic meat products. During this time, the organic processed meat industry has grown to an estimated $150 million. As the demand for organic processed meats increases, the organic industry wants to replace the use of conventional celery powder with an organic alternative.

The awarding of this grant reflects the involvement and hard work for over a year of OTA's National List Innovation Working Group, which was formed in 2015 to invest in research to identify and develop alternatives to inputs on the National Organic Program's list of approved ingredients for certified organic products.

The first project of the National List Innovation Working Group was to look at the development of organically grown celery or other vegetables used in the curing of organic meat products. Celery powder is a key preservative in the curing of meats, but organic celery powder is not as effective in curing as non-organic celery powder. While organic stakeholders would like to remove non-organic celery powder from its toolbox, an appropriate alternative needs to be developed first.

The OREI-funded research will help identify potential varieties of organic crops that would meet the chemical specification needed for curing, while being easily incorporated into current crop rotation systems. It will also identify potential management protocols to achieve target nitrate levels in the curing crop to produce the required shelf life and prevent bacteria in the cured meat, and to produce the desired flavor, color and texture in food.

Food safety and use of manure in organic farming

Addressing one of the most pressing issues for the organic community, a $2 million grant was awarded to examine the relationship between manure use in improving soil health and food safety, concentrating on organic fresh produce production. How to use manure effectively in organic farming in ways that foster healthy soil and minimize risks to food safety is of critical concern for the organic sector, as many certified organic producers rely on animal-based manure and compost to improve soil fertility and quality instead of chemical fertilizers.  

The grant (exact amount $1,999,848.) was awarded to a multidisciplinary team from the University of California, Davis; University of Minnesota, University of Maine, the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, USDA's Economic Research Service Resource and Rural Economics Division, The Organic Center, and the Produce Safety Alliance to examine the relationship between manure use in improving soil health and food safety, concentrating on organic fresh produce production.

Last year, a $50,000 grant, which was conceived and written in collaboration with The Organic Center and the Organic Trade Association and others, was awarded to UC Davis to explore current practices used by the organic industry related to manure, compost use and rotational grazing. As part of that initiative, UC Davis, The Organic Center, Organic Trade Association and other collaborators conducted farmer-focused public meetings, as well as online survey and interviews, to allow farmers to voice concerns and beliefs regarding the use of manure and compost and any potential associated food safety risks.

The new grant will be used to develop a risk analysis of on-farm practices associated with the persistence of pathogens on organic farms using manure and compost; determine the relationship between soil health and pathogen survival in organic produce fields treated with animal manure, and develop a program to provide technical and systems-based produce food safety training.

For more information on The Organic Center and the science behind organic food and farming, visit www.organic-center.org.

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.

SOURCE The Organic Center


Combing through Michigan’s pollinator planning efforts

Why are so many Michigan pollinator planning efforts being developed? Let’s take a closer look at three programs and plans currently forming.

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Meghan Milbrath, and Sarah Scott, Michigan State University Extension, Department of Entomology

In response to concerns about pollinator health, Michigan agencies and legislators are gearing up with big plans and programs for pollinators in our state. Given their importance to our agricultural economy and natural lands, Michigan is taking part in the nationwide movement to protect the insects that pollinate our fruits, vegetables and native plants. In this article we outline, explain and provide updates on the different pollinator plans in Michigan (as of the end of 2016), providing links for more resources and ways you can get involved and receive updates as these plans progress.

In the summer of 2015, the White House released the National Strategy to Protect the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. This plan outlined our national goals for pollinator health: To improve the health of honey bees, protect our migrating monarchs and enhance and expand pollinator habitat. Different federal agencies released their own plans including the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Many states have also developed programs and plans for pollinators that are specific to their needs and issues because of the diversity of crops, native pollinators, honey production, landscapes and pesticide use in the country.

Michigan grows many specialty crops, is on the path of migrating monarchs, has a robust beekeeping industry and is home to thousands of species of native pollinators. We need a strategy to reflect our unique role in pollinator protection. Here we outline three programs and plans currently forming in Michigan:

  1. A legislative bill to create a statewide pollinator protection plan.
  2. A strategy through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to improve habitat for monarchs.
  3. A plan through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to reduce pesticide risk by improving communication between growers and beekeepers.

Michigan bill to create a pollinator protection plan

In October 2016, Representative Tom Cochran introduced House Bill 5950 to the Michigan legislature to create a plan that would protect the health of pollinators and address both of the following:

  1. Promote the health of and mitigate the risks to all pollinator species.
  2. Ensure a robust agricultural economy and industry for honey bees and other pollinators.

If passed, the bill would create a plan in which MDARD, DNR and the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) would work with an advisory group composed of representatives from affected groups, such as beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, conservation groups, universities, retailers, lawn and turf service providers, and agricultural extension services. The group would focus on addressing habitat loss for all pollinators, the effects of pesticide use on all pollinators, and honey bee and other pollinator health and disease research. It would focus on supporting communication between beekeepers and applicators to reduce the risk of pollinators by pesticides, increasing pollinator habitat, maintenance of existing compliance with state pesticide use requirements, and identifying future need for research and education.

The bill has been introduced to the house and the status is still under review. You can read the bill on the Michigan Legislative webpage, and contact your representative with your comments and views. You can find your representative at the Michigan House website.

Michigan’s Monarch and Wild Pollinator Plan

MDNR, along with numerous partners, hosted a Monarch and Wild Pollinator Summit in September 2016. The goals of the summit were to gather key conservation partners from across the state to initiate development of a statewide strategy to conserve habitat for the Monarch butterfly and wild pollinators, and develop a collaborative initiative to attract people and resources to help conserve habitat for monarchs and wild pollinators. A steering committee was created to help develop and organize this Summit that included the following organizations: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Bureau, National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Entomology Department, Michigan Pollinator Initiative and Grand Rapids Community College. The steering committee invited a diverse group of organizations to attend the summit, which included 32 different organizations.

The next step to continue working on the statewide strategy is for the steering committee to schedule a second Monarch and Wild Pollinator Summit for spring of 2017.For more information on what you can do to help monarchs in Michigan, see the DNR’s webpage on Monarchs in Michigan.


MDARD Managed Pollinator Protection Plan

In May 2015, EPA created a proposal to adopt mandatory pesticide label restrictions and amend label language on pesticides that are known to be highly toxic to bees. The language on the new labels indicates the pesticides can only be applied within the guidelines of a state Managed Pollinator Protection Plan. This plan will protect managed bees that are not under pollination service contracts from foliar applications of pesticides that are acutely toxic to bees on a contact exposure basis. The plan will help alleviate stress on honey bee populations due to pesticide exposure by creating a framework for communication between impacted stakeholders.

In 2015, a steering committee was formed with representatives from MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, MSU and commercial beekeepers to develop the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan for the state of Michigan. In early 2016, over 90 representatives of various stakeholder organizations were invited to a one-day summit to discuss the plan.

The primary purpose of a state Managed Pollinator Protection Plan is to establish a framework for open communication and coordination among individuals who are applying pesticides and beekeepers who have colonies in the area impacted by spray. Some of the key points of the plan are to:

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture created guidelines for the creation of the Managed Pollinator Protection Plans and plans to review the efficacy of the plans once established.

To date, Michigan’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan steering committee has organized and held seven regional stakeholder listening sessions across Michigan to initiate the stakeholder participation process for feedback on the plan. From those meetings, there were 84 attendees representing 10 affiliations and at least 33 different organizations. There has been responses collected from 56 stakeholder feedback surveys. The Managed Pollinator Protection Plan committee has also presented at eight targeted stakeholder meetings, including the Michigan Beekeepers Association, commercial beekeepers, blueberry extension field day, Michigan Tribal Environmental Group meeting, Michigan Agricultural Aviation Association (MAAA), Michigan Mosquito Control Association, and a few beekeeping club meetings. 

A summary of the stakeholder listening sessions can be found at “Michigan Managed Pollinator Protection Plan Stakeholder Listening Session Results.” A draft of the pollinator protection plan will be released for public review and comment in mid-February, and the final draft of the plan is scheduled to be complete by March 1.

If you were unable to attend a listening session and would like to provide input, you can do so before Dec. 16, 2016. Please take the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan stakeholder survey online, or send any comments to [log in to unmask]. Sign up for the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan mailing list to stay up-to-date on the timeline and development of the plan.

For more information on other states’ Managed Pollinator Protection Plans, resources on Michigan’s Managed Pollinator Protection Plan or pollinators in Michigan, visit MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative Managed Pollinator Protection Plan page. The final draft of the plan will be found at the MDARD website.

If you know of other pollinator events going on, please send information to the Michigan Pollinator Initiative at [log in to unmask]. Find more information about the plan on our Managed Pollinator Protection Plan website. You can find updates and other topics related to the Managed Pollinator Protection Plan on MSU Extension’s Pollinators and Pollination page.


Educational Program Opportunities


2016 Farmer Veteran Stakeholders Conference

Date: November 29, 2016 - December 2, 2016
Time: 11/29, 2 p.m. - 9 p.m.; 11/30 7 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; 12/1 8 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.; 12/2 8 - 11 a.m.
Location: Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, 219 South Harrison Road, East Lansing, MI 48824
Contact: Julie Neithercutt, [log in to unmask]


To see details about conference visit Details about program click here.



Strategic Business Planning & Management:  Markets, Finances, Production, HR and more

Additional information:  Website: www.msuorganicfarm.org/farmer-field-school.html


  1. Saturday December 3rd, 9am-5pm

Cost for each: $150 for 1 person ($40 additional for 2nd person from same farm)

Location: MSU Student Organic Farm, 3291 College Rd., Holt, MI 48842


Fred Monroe, Monroe Family Organics, Tomm Becker - Sunseed Farm,

Michael. D. Jordon, Retired Farm Loan Manager (20 years experience) and former farmer.


If your are looking for..


An in-depth look into and evaluating the elements of your business plan:


- values & vision, goals;

- market analysis & strategy,

- production and operations management & strategy,

- HR planning & management,

- understanding and implementing business financial measures and analysis and more...



Advanced Strategic Business Planning & Management:  Finances Deep Dive, Strategic Investment, Capital Access, and Growth

(recommended follow class up to Dec. 3 workshop)

Saturday, December 10th, 9am - 5pm


This workshop will offer a very thorough analysis of business financial measurement, planning & management tools, indicators for understanding current business structure and health, planning and assessing strategic investments, accessing and maximizing capital investments, taxes & business types, risk assessment and management, planning for growth and strategies for business exit/transition.



Wednesday, December 14, 1pm - 4pm

Farm Labor: Getting, Managing, and Keeping Good Labor for Your Farm



Together, farmers and others will share and discuss a variety of successful practices and approaches to farm labor including:  employment, contract work, piece rate, internships, and work trades.   Workshop will explore the benefits and trade-offs of these various arrangements relating to cost, legal, management, and souring considerations.   Approaches for recruiting, training, managing and retaining employees will be covered.  Presenters will also discuss setting employees up for success and expectation achievement, investing in staff, creating management positions, and setting appropriate compensation.

To register for any of these workshops click here

The Midwest Cover Crop Council announces its annual council meeting in Grand Rapids, MI

If you are very interested in learning more about cover crops or working with teams across the Midwest region to promote and inform about cover crop virtues and practices this meeting is for you. Researchers, educators and farmers work together to identify information gaps, knowledge gold mines and opportunities to better understand how cover crops can improve farming and ecological systems.


The meeting will be March 17-18 in Grand Rapids, MI at Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids - Airport

5700 28th Street SE

Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546


More details will be communicated via email, website, and our social media outlets as they become available.

To see updates and check out the resources including the Midwest Cover Crop tool go to www.mccc.msu.edu


Join the forum on Pollination

East Lansing, on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, Michigan State University will host A Pollination Forum, an evening outreach event to present the latest information on issues facing bees and the solutions being developed to support crop pollination. Held at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing, Michigan, this event will run from 6-8 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.), and will feature Marla Spivak as the keynote speaker who will present “The Glorious Pollinator Revolution.” Spivak is an internationally-renowned bee researcher, a McArthur Fellow and the Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota. 

Immediately following Spivak’s talk, a series of lightning-fast presentations will highlight four pollination experts from across the United States presenting on their latest research on crop pollinators. A reception will follow with a cash bar and free hors d’oeuvres that will provide a chance to meet the speakers and read poster displays reporting on current research on bees and pollination by students and postdoctoral researchers from MSU and other universities.

This is a free event, but registration is mandatory since there is limited space available. Please register by Nov. 23 at: A Pollination Forum.

Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Katie Steinman at [log in to unmask] by Nov. 18. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible. This event is sponsored by MSU’s Department of Entomology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, AgBioResearch and MSU Extension, and by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu/newsletters. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

SB3420 Urban Ag bill to compliment the 2018 Farm Bill


Farmland Rent and Rental Meeting for Landlords & Farmers

Date: December 9, 2016
Time: 1 - 4 p.m.
Location: MSU Extension Office 2nd floor Conference Room, 201 N. Main St., Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858
Contact: 989-672-3870

This will be a fast moving review of some of the issues and options that farmland owners and tenants/renters consider when setting a reasonable farmland rental rate. Some of the current market prices are having an economic impacting on land rents. We will take a look at where rents are heading. We will try to consider both sides (landowner and tenant) of the farmland rental agreement issues and provide an overview of information that may be helpful in the development of a win-win farmland rental agreement. RSVP IS REQUIRED District Farm Business Management Educator, Dennis Stein, will be the lead presenter for this program.

Agenda topics to be covered:

  1. Current land and rental values along with how they are trending
  2. Approach to farmland rental rates considering current economic situation
  3. Considerations and using alternative farmland rental agreements (Pro- Con)
  4. How some farms use Flex Rental agreements to share in profits
  5. What needs to be in a farmland rental agreement
  6. How some farms approach the cost of field drainage tile in a rental agreement

Please be sure to register below to receive a handout information package.

Date, Time and Location Options:

Friday Dec. 9, 2016, 1 - 4 p.m., MSU Extension Office 2nd floor Conference Room, 201 N. Main St., Mt. Pleasant, 48858 

Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, 9 a.m. - Noon., Sanilac County Mental Health Building, Conference Room, 227 Sanilac Rd., Sandusky, 48471

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, 1 - 4 p.m., MSU Extension Office, 1142 S. Van Dyke Rd., Bad Axe, 48413

Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, 1 - 4 p.m., Lapeer County Building, Basement Conference Room, 1800 Imlay City Rd., Lapeer, 48446

Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 1 - 4 p.m., MSU Extension Office, 362 Green St., Caro, 48723

Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, 1 - 4 p.m., MSU Extension Office, 555 W. Cedar St., Gladwin, 48624

Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, 1 - 4 p.m., MSU Extension Office, 2nd floor Conference Room, One Tuscola St., Saginaw, 48607

Cost: FREE

Post Meeting copies of handout material are $10 per set.





How to Start a Successful Cottage Food Business

Date: December 1, 2016
Time: 6 - 8 p.m.
Location: Clare County MSU Extension 225 W. Main Street Harrison, MI 48625
Contact: Lisa Treiber at [log in to unmask] or 989-832-6643

Clare County MSU Extension
225 W. Main Street
Harrison, MI 48625

Dec. 1, 2016
6 - 8 p.m.

This workshop combines the business and food safety aspects of preparing and selling cottage foods safely and successfully. Learn what foods can be legally produced, how to label and sell them.

MSU Extension will be working with the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources to cover the business aspects of the Cottage Food Law.

Cost of the workshop is $10.00 and includes a certificate that states participant has taken food safety training related to Michigan Cottage Foods.  

This workshop will be taught by MSU Extension Food Safety and MSU Product Center Educators.

To register click here.


Registration is now open for the 18th Annual Northern Michigan Small Farmers Conference

January 27th and 28th at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme.


Registration is now open. For the 18th year and counting, area and regional growers gather to connect, learn and share knowledge around all areas of food and farming. Two separate conferences on Friday and Saturday, and a Friday evening Keynote and festivities make it a whole weekend of fun and learning.

Attend dynamic lectures and classes both days with folks like Michael Phillips of Lost Orchard Nation and Paul and Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm. More advanced courses are offered on Friday at Farm School in the tracks of Fruit Production, Grazing, and Season Extension. Saturday's programming offers a slew of sessions and a Trade Show with over 100 exhibitors! Register for one or register for all the events. Just do it now to get the Early Bird Price.


Check out the Small Farm Conference website to see the entire speaker and session lineup and agenda, and information on some new features this year, like Friday night festivities and dancing with Bowhunter put on in partnership with BlissFest Music Organization. 

We're excited to announce that this year we are offering 15 farmers a discounted entry fee through our Bill Paladino Scholarship program. Learn more and apply here. 


*Keep your eye on your mailbox if you prefer hard copies, the registration brochure will be in the mail soon!



Employment Opportunities


Co-Director Position with MIFFS

Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS) is hiring a Co-Director of Development & Services. Founded in 1998, Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) is a statewide membership based organization (501 (c)(3) whose purpose is to connect beginning and historically under-served farmers to each other and to resource opportunities, ensuring social justice, environmental stewardship, and profitability. MIFFS works to improve Michigan's triple bottom line: our economy, our environment & the social well-being of our communities through Sustainable Agriculture Initiatives.

Co-Director of Development & Services, Professional Requirements: Candidates will have attained an advanced degree in a relevant academic field or the equivalent of five years or more experience. Successful candidates will have an understanding of food and/or sustainable agriculture systems, innovations and policies and will possess expertise in the following areas: 

The Co-Director: Development & Services must be based in Michigan, (offices are currently located in East Lansing and Okemos) and will report to the MIFFS Council with the Council President as his/her primary liaison. Compensation, Benefits Package: This is a full-time position with a starting salary in the $40,000-$45,000 range, and includes vacation and holiday time. This new position is dependent on retaining recently increased funding.

This position will be open until filled. Interviews scheduled to begin in mid-November Resume & cover letter should be emailed to [log in to unmask].

Full job description and application instructions 



Grants and Cost Share Opportunities


The USDA EQIP Fund is open for applications till Dec 16, 2016.

This is a cost share program for farmers to install systems to improve water and soil quality while improving the farm. It is run by Natural Resource Conservation Services.

Applications must be submitted by Dec. 16, 2016, to be considered for fiscal year 2017 funding.

General Program Description

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. It supports production agriculture and environmental quality as compatible goals. Through EQIP, farmers, ranchers, private forest land owners and Federally-recognized American Indian tribes may receive financial and technical assistance to implement structural and land management conservation practices on eligible agricultural land.


Individuals engaged in livestock, crop or forest production are eligible to apply. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pasture, and private non-industrial forestland.

Applicants must:  

Program Priorities

The following National Priorities, consistent with statutory resources concerns that include soil, water, wildlife, air quality, and related natural resource concerns, may be used in EQIP implementation:

  1. Reductions of nonpoint source pollution, such as nutrients, sediment, pesticides, or excess salinity in impaired watersheds consistent with total maximum daily loads (TMDL) where available; the reduction of surface and groundwater contamination; and the reduction of contamination from agricultural sources, such as animal feeding operations
  2. Conservation of ground and surface water resources
  3. Reduction of emissions, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and ozone precursors and depletors  that contribute to air quality impairment violations of National Ambient Air Quality Standards
  4. Reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation from unacceptable levels on agricultural land
  5. Promotion of at-risk species habitat conservation including development and improvement of wildlife habitat
  6. Energy conservation to help save fuel, improve efficiency of water use, maintain production, and protect soil and water resources by more efficiently using fertilizers and pesticides and
  7. Biological carbon storage and sequestration

State priorities are developed annually from input from local workgroups based on county resource assessments and individual plans to address those local needs. A State Technical Committee comprised of representation from these local work groups, Tribal groups, commodity groups, and conservation partners advise NRCS on the implementation of  EQIP.

EQIP activities are carried out according to a site specific conservation plan developed in conjunction with the producer. All conservation practices are installed according to NRCS technical standards. Producers may elect to use an approved technical service provider for technical assistance.

Applying for EQIP

EQIP applications are accepted on a continuous basis, however, NRCS establishes application "cut-off" or submission deadline dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. EQIP is open to all eligible agricultural producers and submitted applications may be considered or evaluated in multiple funding pool opportunities.

Get Started with NRCS by learning the steps to receive conservation assistance.

Participant Responsibilities

Applicants are responsible for completing and filing all application and eligibility paperwork as required. If funded, participants are required to sign a contract and agree to implement the planned conservation practices to NRCS standards and specifications as scheduled.

Socially Disadvantaged, Beginning, and Limited Resource Farmers/Ranchers, Military Veteran Farmers

The 2014 Farm Bill continues to address the unique circumstances and concerns of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as beginning and limited resource farmers and ranchers and Veteran Farmers. It provides for voluntary participation, offers incentives, and focuses on equity in accessing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and services. Enhancements include increased payment rates and advance payments of up to 50 percent to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.

Michigan is committed to reaching out to Historically Underserved individuals and groups. Historically Underserved participants may also receive higher payment rates in addition to being considered in high priority funding pools. See the Small & Limited and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers page for the NRCS definition of the Historically Underserved.

NRCS National Outreach and Advocacy Web page

EQIP Documents
Interim Final Rule for EQIP
Environmental Quality Incentives Program "At a glance"

Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200)


To apply for EQIP, contact your local USDA Service Center. 
Michigan Field Office Directory




Vicki Morrone

Organic Farming Specialist

Center for Regional Food Systems

480 Wilson Rd Rm 303

East Lansing, MI 48824

517-282-3557 (cell)


sorrone11 SKYPE