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Articles from 2013 In January


Minnesota Deer Harvest Down 4%

Minnesota Deer Harvest Down 4%

Minnesota hunters harvested 184,649 deer during the 2012 season, down 4% from 2011, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The decline reflects the fact that hunters had fewer chances to harvest antlerless deer because the 2012 season was designed to help stabilize and increase populations, said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. "We expected the reduction," she said.

Firearms hunters harvested 155,599 deer while archery and muzzleloader hunters harvested 21,556 and 7,494 deer, respectively. The statewide archery harvest was up 5%, muzzleloader harvest increased 1% and firearm harvest was down 5% from last year.

Minnesota Deer Harvest Down 4%

The DNR will conduct aerial surveys over portions of the state later this winter. Population modeling, coupled with select aerial surveys, will be used to determine deer density. Management designations for 2013 deer permit areas will be determined once the new density estimates are compared to established population goals.

"Hunters should pay close attention to the hunting synopsis, which comes out in mid-July, to see if they need to apply for a lottery either-sex permit," McInenly said.

The final deer harvest number is calculated using information provided by hunters when they register their deer. A final report, which includes more detailed harvest information, will be available online in the coming weeks at www.mndnr.gov/deer.

For the 2013 season, the deadline for the either-sex permit application is Thursday, Sept. 5. Archery deer hunting begins Saturday, Sept. 14. Firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 9. Muzzleloader season opens Saturday, Nov. 30.

Source: DNR

Register Now For Harvest New England Ag Marketing Conference

Register Now For Harvest New England Ag Marketing Conference

The fourth biennial Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference is opportunity to gain helpful marketing advice from the region's top farmers and industry experts. The conference and trade show will be held Feb. 27 and 28 in Sturbridge, Mass. And, you can save money by registering by Feb. 7.

The program includes:
Roberta MacDonald, Cabot Creamery's senior vice president of marketing is one of the keynote speakers. She'll share how Cabot from near bankruptcy to over $400 million in sales, and how you can apply what she learned on your farm.

Register Now For Harvest New England Ag Marketing Conference

Bob Burke, co-founder of the Natural Products Consulting Group and one of the top 25 business builders of the natural products industry, is the second keynote speaker. He'll discuss retail growth trends, new products and categories, plus their influences on consumer expectations and how they'll drive your business.

Other conference features include:
•A discussion by New England ag commissioners or chiefs
•A New England Farmers' market managers workshop
•A trade show with over 80 vendors of farm equipment, packaging, insurance companies, specialty food companies and service providers

23 workshops will include:
•Assessing the destination farm experience
•Building a strong sales brand and brand loyalty
•Strategic marketing for small-scale producers
•Commercial kitchen design basics
•How to integrate tourism trends into your tourism business
•Assessing institutional markets
•Selecting, training and working with 20-something staff
•Determining your farm business profitable areas

Register by February 7th for just $90 or pay $125 later and at the door. Registration covers 26 workshops, the trade show, two lunches and a reception on Wednesday evening. Additional family members/employees pay just $75.  Attend one day for only $50.

For more details, go to www.harvestnewengland.org. The Harvest New England Agricultural Marketing Conference and trade show is sponsored by New England's six Departments of Agriculture.

Plastic Stabilizer May Contaminate Sludge Applications

Plastic Stabilizer May Contaminate Sludge Applications

Some types of carbon nanotubes used for strengthening plastics and other materials may have an adverse effect on soil microbiology and soil microbial processes, a Purdue University study shows.

Specifically, these raw, non-functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes were shown to damage the active microbiology in low-organic soil. Ron Turco, a professor of agronomy, says many of the bacteria affected could be involved in carbon and nitrogen cycling, which are critical processes to ensure a fully functional soil.

Plastic Stabilizer May Contaminate Sludge Applications

"There appears to be more negative potential on the active microbial population than we thought," says Turco, whose findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. "The as-produced materials could be a negative environmental situation if they are released into low-organic soils that could not absorb them."

Functionalized carbon nanotubes have modifications that create chemical or biological changes to the nanotubes. They're often used in medicines, and Turco's research showed they had no effect in high-organic or low-organic soils.

Non-functionalized single-walled nanotubes - those lacking intentional surface alterations - are being added to a variety of products during manufacturing because they can strengthen the material without adding much weight. Nanotubes contained in manufacturing waste products may find their way into wastewater treatment plants and bio-solids that result from water purification. Those bio-solids cannot be released into water, so they are often discarded by spreading on land, adding critically needed plant nutrients to soil.

PLASTIC PROBLEMS: Ron Turco found that raw, non-functionalized, single-wall carbon nanotubes found in plastic refuse of waste treatment can damage active microbiology in low-organic soils. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

"Land application of biosolids is standard procedure now," Turco says. "If any of that contains nanotubes, that could be a problem."

Single-walled nanotubes also didn't affect microbes in high-organic soils, Turco says, likely because organic materials are highly reactive. Organic materials may have reacted with the nanotubes, leaving them unable to affect microbes.

"We want to alert people to the fact that if you're going to apply these as part of a land-treatment program, you may want to focus on high-organic matter soils," he says.

It's also possible, though much less likely, that nanotubes could contaminate soil through accidental spills during a delivery, Turco says.

Next, Turco says he will look at the effects on plants and soils from other nanomaterials and nanometals that are being more widely used in products for different properties they convey, such as nanosilver for its disinfecting properties and nanoindium, which is used in electronics.

Cattle Prices May Set Record

Cattle Prices May Set Record

For the third year prices for all market classes of beef cattle set record annual highs in the U.S.

Are record highs possible again in 2013 and even 2014?

The short answer to that is "yes," says Tim Petry, North Dakota State University Extension livestock marketing economist.

"However, remember that prices for each market class of cattle have different seasonal patterns, so at times 2013 prices for some market classes (feeder calves in particular) likely will be below last year."

Furthermore, there are many fundamental factors that affect prices and some are unexpected, Petry continues.

Tim Petry see high prices coming for cattle

"For example, in 2012, the lean, finely textured beef media event; another case of BSE in a U.S. cow; and the worst drought in the Corn Belt since 1988 all surfaced.

"Smaller supplies of beef, competing meats and cattle will be supportive to prices in 2013. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting beef production to decline 4 percent in 2013 and all red meat and poultry supplies to be down 2 percent.

"Due to drought in the southern Plains in 2011 and more widespread drought in 2012, the beef cow herd likely will be down 1 to 2 percent in 2013 and result in a correspondingly smaller calf crop.

"On Feb. 1, the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service will release its cattle report that will document the number of each market class of cattle in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2013.

Tim Petry see high prices coming for cattle

"Besides the smaller calf crop, two additional factors will contribute to lower trending U.S. supplies of feeder and slaughter cattle. There likely will be fewer feeder cattle imports in 2013 (especially from Mexico), and there could be increased retention of heifers and cows for breeding purposes if better moisture conditions in the U.S. return.

"Live cattle futures are indicating another record year for fed-cattle prices. Strong hide and offal values and beef export values will be supportive to fed-cattle prices. However, the U.S. economy continues to struggle and will need to improve in 2013 to support fed- cattle prices at the projected futures market price levels.

"Cow prices were at a record high throughout 2012 and likely will continue to be at a record high, especially if normal moisture levels prevail and beef cow slaughter declines.

"A cyclical buildup in the beef cow herd could cause lower cow beef production for several years. Also, the demand for 90 percent lean, boneless beef is expected to stay strong because U.S. consumers have a big appetite for hamburger.

"Steer calf prices ended 2012 near the previous year's record levels. However, prices likely will not be as high as last year early in 2013 due to the drought that continues to plague much of the country. Should the drought subside, and spring and early summer grazing conditions improve significantly, calf prices could challenge last year's levels by April or May.

"Fall 2013 calf prices are dependent on corn prices. A good corn crop and lower corn prices would support calf prices at higher levels. However, another poor corn crop and higher corn prices could cause lower calf prices than what we had the last two years.

"Both calf and feeder cattle prices are expected to be volatile in 2013 because of the expectation of continued volatility in corn prices. With good growing conditions, there likely will be enough corn acres planted in 2013 to produce a 15 billion bushel corn crop, but another drought year could result in an even smaller crop than the 10.8 billion bushels produced in 2012.

"That wide range in production potential could lead to corn prices ranging from less than $5 per bushel to more than $9 in the fall. As news of the potential size of the corn crop materializes, prices will adjust accordingly and relatively quickly."

Source: NDSU

Hiring Top-Notch Farm Labor Means Digging Deep

Hiring Top-Notch Farm Labor Means Digging Deep

Successful businesses depend on good employees. And finding good employees can be a tough task for farmers looking to maintain or expand their businesses. That was the message that Bernie Erven, Ohio State University professor emeritus, shared during the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference Jan. 24 at the Lansing Center.

"Employee relations is one key to the growth of Michigan agriculture," says Dale Rozeboom, Michigan State University Extension specialist and one of the conference organizers. "We invited Dr. Erven because we know that farmers often struggle when trying to hire and keep the best possible talent."

Hiring Top-Notch Farm Labor Means Digging Deep

Erven kicked off the conference by challenging attendees to think of a business that was thriving while its people were failing. He wasn't surprised when none of the 75 people in attendance could come up with an example.

"No one single thing is more important than the people you hire," he says, adding that far too many farmers try to keep everything in the family, even when it's not in their best interest. "In agriculture, the hardest thing many people have to do is decide which family members to invite into the business."

He suggested that business leaders develop a job description before making assumptions about family members' fit in the organization.

"Before you even think about whom to hire, do a job analysis. Outline the job qualifications and put together a job description," he says. "Too often the rule is 'Anybody who needs a job in this family gets hired.' But businesses that succeed hire only if they have a need in the business and the person fits."

Next, he said, it's important to build a pool of applicants. That means taking a long, hard look at how you spread the word about open positions.

"Talk to existing employees and find out why they like working for you," he says. "If you want to hire seniors, for example, find out what they want and focus on that in your communication."

As a final step, Erven says that interviewing is key to hiring success, even when hiring family members.

"Who else gets a job without an interview?" he asked the crowd. "An interview with family members can uncover a lot of information, both good and bad."

And with outside candidates, he says being a good interviewer is critical.

"There is no worse place to lose outstanding applicants than in a poor interview," he says. "It's up to you to come across as a person they want to work for."

Erven was one of six professionals chosen by Michigan State University Extension to discuss important concepts necessary to keep Michigan agriculture on a growth curve. You can see his suggestions for being a great interviewer, as well as other presentations by experts from across the country, on the Michigan State University Extension website, www.msue.msu.edu. Click on "Agriculture" and look for "Growing Michigan Agriculture Proceedings" in the Resource channel in the lower right section of the site.

Survey Input Allows Farmers To Be Heard On Farm Policy

Survey Input Allows Farmers To Be Heard On Farm Policy

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will spend the next several months gathering production practices information from farmers and ranchers across the nation through the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). The results of this survey will serve as a baseline for numerous federal policies and programs that affect U.S. farm and ranch families.

Survey Input Allows Farmers To Be Heard On Farm Policy

"It is hard to overestimate the impact the responses to ARMS can have since this survey is the primary tool for federal, state and local government representatives and all major farm and ranch sector stakeholders to gauge the financial condition of American farms and ranches," says Dean Groskurth, director of the NASS Nebraska field office. "By responding, Nebraska farmers and ranchers can ensure that they are accurately represented when it comes to decision-making."

 NASS conducts ARMS jointly with USDA's Economic Research Service. In an effort to obtain the most accurate data, the federal agencies will reach out to nearly 33,000 producers nationwide, including 1,800 in Nebraska, between January and April. The survey asks producers to provide data on their operating expenditures, production costs and household characteristics.

 As with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential by law. NASS safeguards the confidentiality of all responses, ensuring no individual respondent or operation can be identified.

 The economic data gathered in ARMS will be published in the annual Farm Production

Expenditures report on Aug. 2, 2013. All NASS reports are available online at www.nass.usda.gov.

Western FSA Offers Microloans, Reminds Of Pending Deadlines

Western FSA Offers Microloans, Reminds Of Pending Deadlines

This is the final day for farmers in several counties in Idaho, Oregon and Washington to buy or change crop insurance programs under the USDA's Risk Management Agency.

RMA reminds growers that the closing sales date for Multiple Peril Crop Insurance programs is today for PNW spring planted onions in Idaho, Oregon and Washington and for cabbage in Oregon and Washington.

Final dates to buy or change all other spring seeded MPCI (excluding wheat in counties with fall and spring plantings) will be March 15. That's the final date to buy 2013 AGR-Lite insurance for new application/enrollment policies.

Western FSA Offers Microloans, Reminds Of Pending Deadlines

Farmers are also offered a new FSA loan program on "microloans" to expand small farm finance operations

The program is designed for credit needs of $35,000 or less, says Carolyn Persinger, farm loan chief at the Nevada State Farm Service Agency. "This innovative offering will be more customer-friendly than our larger, more traditional loan programs," she notes. "Farms and ranches seeking a smaller loan for start-up or operational needs now have a great new tool to  consider."

In Montana, the state FSA alerts producers of pending deadlines on several features, including the following:

March 15: NAP sales closing for all 2013 spring planted and forage crops, including grass for hay and grazing.

March 16: CRP Managed Spring Grazing Period begins.

March 25: USDA claims filing deadline for Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers.

March 31: Final date to apply for loans or LDPs on 2012 crop year harvested barley, canola, crambe, flaxseed, honey, oats, rapeseed, wheat and sesame seed.

May 14: CRP Managed Spring Grazing period ends.

May 31: Final date to apply for loans or LDPs on 2012 crop year harvested corn, dry peas, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, rice, safflower seed, chickpeas and sunflower seed.

June 7: SURE Disaster Program signup deadline for 2011 crop year.
Wisconsin Cheese Originals Offers $2,500 Scholarship

Wisconsin Cheese Originals Offers $2,500 Scholarship

Wisconsin Cheese Originals announces applications for its 2013 Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship are available. The $2,500 award will help one aspiring cheesemaker earn his or her Wisconsin cheesemaking license and make new artisan, farmstead or specialty cheeses.

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to require cheesemakers to be licensed, a lengthy process that can take as long as 18 months, requires the attendance at five cheesemaking courses, and 240 hours of apprenticeship with an existing licensed Wisconsin cheesemaker.

Wisconsin Cheese Originals Offers $2,500 Scholarship

Applications for the 2013 Wisconsin Cheese Originals Beginning Cheesemaker Scholarship are available for download at www.WisconsinCheeseOriginals.com. Applications are due March 15. The recipient will be chosen by a review committee and notified by April 1.

Past Wisconsin Cheese Originals Beginning Scholarship Recipients include:

2012: Anna Landmark owns and runs a small-scale sustainable farm with her husband and children in Albany, Wis. After using the scholarship money to earn her cheesemaker's license, Landmark plans to craft both fresh and aged sheep's milk cheeses, including thistle-rennet cheeses, which will require her to develop her own rennet from thistle flowers. This type of cheese is currently only available via import from Portugal and Spain.

2011: Rose Boero, a dairy goat breeder in Custer, Wis., successfully obtained her cheesemaker's license after receiving the scholarship in 2011. Today, she makes a variety of goat's milk cheeses at Willow Creek Cheese and teaches classes in her home for amateur cheesemakers. She is developing plans to build her own cheese plant at her dairy goat farm, where she and her husband have raised Toggenburg dairy goats for 25 years.

2010: Katie Hedrich, a goat's milk cheesemaker, obtained her license in 2010 after receiving the very first Wisconsin Cheese Originals Scholarship. At the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheese Contest, she took Best in Show for her goat's milk cheese, LaClare Farms Evalon, and was named the 2011 U.S. Champion Cheesemaker, the youngest licensed cheesemaker to ever earn the title. She and her family are currently building a farmstead cheese plant on their farm near Pipe.

For more information, contact Jeanne Carpenter, 608-358-7837 or email Jeanne@wordartisanllc.com .

Organic production and the labor problem

Every organic organization I’ve come across usually argues loudly that organic farming is the one and only, truly-sustainable production system the world needs.

But can organic really hack it in a modern world, especially when it’s most precious resource, labor, may not necessarily be a willing participant?

Organic advocate Worldwatch Food and Agriculture Program recently reported that land farmed organically is growing by leaps and bounds, and now comprises nearly 1 percent of all land farmed.

Report author Laura Reynolds stated, “Although organic agriculture often produces lower yields on land that has recently been farmed conventionally, it can outperform conventional practices – especially in times of drought – when the land has been farmed organically for a longer time. Conventional agricultural practices often degrade the environment over both the long and short term through soil erosion, excessive water extraction, and biodiversity loss.”

The report went on to say that the United States “has lagged behind other countries in adopting sustainable farming methods.”

The accuracy of Reynolds’ claims aside, she can rest assured – if organic farming yields more and makes more money per acre than conventional farming, U.S. producers would take a serious look at it, on at least a portion of their acreage.

But there is a reason why they don’t – labor.

In modern agriculture, labor has essentially been replaced by the safe and effective use of crop protection products and high-tech machinery.  To get an idea of how much labor can be replaced by one machine, consider the one-row cotton picker, which did the work of 40 hand laborers.

Today’s modern cotton pickers can harvest six rows at a time, so if we are to de-evolve technologically to organic cotton production and hand labor, we would need thousands of people willing to hand-pick cotton, unless of course someone invents a dependable, widely-adaptable method of running a cotton harvester through a field without first applying chemical defoliants.

Imagine countless Americans, bent over, dragging sacks of cotton through heat and mosquito dens. Just so Patagonia can put “certified organic” on its label.

Good luck with that.

Unfortunately for organic – and as commercial operators know all too well – there are far too many unemployed Americans who think a job making $10 an hour is a waste of time.

Worldwatch correctly states that organic production techniques are widely accepted in some regions of the world. But it’s typically where the work force is willing to accept low wages. The Worldwatch Institute itself noted that 80 percent of the world’s 1.6 million certified organic growers live in the developing world.

Organic is a nice concept, and I hope it continues to grow its market share. But this idea that organic is the only way to grow a crop is fundamentally flawed, especially in technologically advanced countries like the United States.