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New South Carolina grower association formed

South Carolina farmers looking to the future have formed a new co-operative called the Carolina Agri-Solutions Growers Association (CASGA).

Formally incorporated during a meeting at Clemson University’s Pee Dee Research and Education Center near Florence, CASGA is designed to bring together efforts in the areas of purchasing and marketing for traditional and non-traditional botanicals for South Carolina Agriculture in the 21st century, according to Greg Hyman, the association’s first president.

Other incorporators and board members include vice-president Bob Childers of Woodruff, treasurer Jim Irvin of Wadmalaw Island, secretary Jody Martin of Florence, and Johnny Shelley of Nichols.

Martin, Clemson Extension agent who coordinates the South Carolina Muscadine Initiative, which includes a one-acre demonstration vineyard at the Pee Dee REC, said that CASGA hopes to capitalize on the huge public interest in health issues.

“The health and wellness industry is the next trillion dollar sector in our economy,” he said. “There is a market for natural products in the nutraceuticals area. We also have opportunities for juices, wines and vinegars. Some people may want to make jellies and jams.”

Martin pointed out that tourism and agriculture are the top two industries in South Carolina and CASGA hopes to find ways to tie the two together.

Hyman said the initial thrust for CASGA will come from tobacco farmers in transition to other crops, either to supplement or to supplant tobacco.

“They are looking for a reason to keep farming and to make a profit,” he said.

“We need to move away from the typical cash flow-scenario to a profit-based revenue structure,” Hyman said. “Typically if a farmer pays his bills at the end of the year he made money, because he lives off cash flow during the year.

“The new mentality is geared toward identifying the consumer before you start the product and building a profit margin into the process instead of just growing a crop and hoping somebody buys it,” he said.

As owner of Hyman Vineyards he received a USDA grant of $275,000 in October for muscadine product development and market research to help with that change. He said that effort blends in perfectly with CASGA’s mission.

He noted that muscadine grapes contain high amounts of phytochemicals such as resveritrol, which is good for the heart, blood and cholesterol and helps prevent stroke. It’s one of the compounds found in red wines.

“When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the darker the color, the more anthocyanins the contain — hence more phenolics and more antioxidant activity,” he said.

He noted that lots of research has already begun on nutraceuticals in South Carolina. Clemson University, the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina have joint studies under way.

Hyman said the new cooperative could lead to enterprises such as mouthwash made from muscadines, since they contain a large amount of ellagitannins, which help degrade or eliminate periodontal disease.

“You don’t think of the farmer as the person who formulates and makes your mouthwash, but he could,” Hyman said.

He said South Carolina farmers have to take their crops and be the ones who produce value-added products rather than working for others who take those profits.

“We’re looking at not only non-traditional plants but non-traditional uses of traditional plants,” he said, holding up a small plastic container called Razz Tabs. “For example, you can take a raspberry and do something different with it, like make a dietary supplement out of it. “Tobacco even has a food value if you learn how to do the proper extractions, which we’ve been exploring,” Hyman said. “We could use tobacco to make animal feeds or insecticides. It even has some industrial uses.”

The CASGA board set $100 for an initial membership fee for growers. He said the association opens up opportunities for grants, access to resources and other things, such as the potential for luring industries to support their efforts.

Martin said the association will meet in January at the Pee Dee REC during a two day period which will also see the South Carolina Tobacco Growers Association and the third annual R.A.I.N. Conference meeting.

Val Dunham, retired biochemist from Coastal Carolina University, which hosted R.A.I.N. I and II, said the third conference will concentrate on the acronym — Research, Agriculture, Industry and Nature — in the context of the new association.

Martin estimates conservatively that more than 400 acres of cultivated muscadines are scattered across the state, but growers are unaware of one another. He said that CASGA should improve the lines of communication.

“Most people are not aware that Bob Childers and three of his neighbors are co-owners of 100 acres of muscadines near Woodruff which are around 40 years old,” said Martin, noting that the large planting is the only place in the state where muscadines have been harvested by machine.

“If acreage really picks up in the state, mechanical harvesting will have to be the way to go,” he said. A cooperative will be more able to support mechanization in the vineyards.

Martin has worked to collaborate with others in the muscadine industry throughout the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi and other areas, pulling them together to discuss formation of a National Muscadine Board to build collaboration in developing new markets and branding.

Will Arkansas limit 2,4-D aerial application?

At a recent meeting of the Arkansas State Plant Board Pesticide Committee, a recommendation was made to ban the aerial application of 2,4-D statewide between April 15 and Sept. 15.

I have received calls from several rice farmers and aerial applicators that were not happy with the recommendation. The callers went on to say they had been led to believe that I was on record in support of this action.

I was not in attendance at the meeting where this action was taken. I did attend the previous committee meeting where several cotton farmers spoke about the problems they were having with 2,4-D drift on cotton. I was at the meeting for an entirely different reason but was asked several questions about the issue and answered them to the best of my ability.

I will attempt to convey my thoughts on the 2,4-D issue.

Cotton is more sensitive to 2,4-D than any other crop to any other herbicide that I am aware of. People will always argue whether the problem is due to volatility or drift. The major factor though is simply the sensitivity of the crop to the herbicide.

This means you may be able to apply any other herbicide in the same manner that you made the 2,4-D application and not have a problem. This causes a lot of applicators to believe there was something different about the way the spray behaved. In most cases, though, the problem is a matter of the sensitivity of the crop.

There have been some problems with 2,4-D through the years — ever since I went to work for the University of Arkansas in 1974. A lot of regulations have changed through the years and I had to participate in the process for most of them.

For the most part, the current regulations have worked well in most areas of the state. There have been a few “hot spots” where a problem would occur in an area on a one-time basis. Most of these could be traced back to a single application that usually involved some sort of violation of the current regulations.

The exception has been in northeast Arkansas — primarily the Crowley’s Ridge area. There have consistently been more problems in Clay County, for example, than in other areas of the state.

This year I observed 2,4-D injury symptoms on cotton from the Poinsett/Cross county line to the Arkansas/Missouri state line. My thoughts at the time was, “If it has come down to this, we can farm rice without 2 4-D.”

We have alternatives, although they are more expensive. In areas where rice and cotton are intercropped, rice farmers have been using alternatives to 2,4-D for years. This makes a good argument for not using 2,4-D statewide.

It sounds simple, but there is another side. Unlike Mississippi, for example, where 2,4-D can not be used by air on rice, there are a lot of areas in Arkansas where cotton and rice are not intercropped. Farmers in these areas are asking, “Why are we being penalized for problems occurring in other parts of the state?” That is a very valid point.

While 2,4-D is more economical, it can also be less injurious on early-season soybeans than Grandstand, which is the primary alternative to 2,4-D applied at midseason.

It is my understanding a lot of violations were found during the investigations on 2,4-D drift this summer. Proper enforcement action can help prevent it from happening again. However, that does nothing for the farmer who had the problem, because it does nothing to tie any particular application to a particular farmer’s acreage.

There is no question that the current regulations are not working in the Crowley’s Ridge area of the state. It was my opinion this year that most of the 2,4-D symptoms that I observed on the east side of the ridge came from the west side — which is primarily a rice-growing area. I am sure changes will be made to address this.

The question is not whether something needs to be done about the problem, but whether a statewide ban is necessary. I work almost exclusively in rice, but I do not want to see any cotton farmer hurt by 2,4-D. If a statewide ban is required to accomplish this, then I would go on record as supporting it.

At present, however, this would seem to be an extreme approach. A more logical approach would be to fix the problem where the problem is and see if it continues to be safely used in areas where no problems are occurring.

If I were a cotton farmer, I would want 2,4-D banned worldwide. If I were a rice farmer in an area where no problems are occurring, I would want to continue to use it.

The way the system works is at some point there will be a public hearing where anyone wishing to voice his opinion will have the opportunity. The entire Arkansas State Plant Board will then take the recommendation of the Pesticide Committee along with the comments made at the public hearing and make a final decision. You have the opportunity to participate in the process.

This is a difficult issue, but, in the end, I am confident a fair decision will be made.


Tennessee Agritourism Conference set for Jan. 22-23

Agritourism entrepreneurs and farmers considering agritourism enterprises are encouraged to attend a special conference Jan. 22-23 in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

The 2007 Agritourism: Cultivating Farm Revenue conference will include educational sessions, a trade show and opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs and service providers.

"The first conference held in November 2005 was attended by more than 280 people from 11 states," says Megan Bruch, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee's Center for Profitable Agriculture and one of the conference planners. "The feedback from that conference was overwhelmingly positive, and we hope this conference will be even more valuable for those who attend."

The conference will feature presentations on branding, marketing, pricing, risk management, evaluating resources, growing enterprises, hospitality, safety, and visitor characteristics and preferences. The conference will also include several "Agritourism in Action" sessions where participants will hear from experienced agritourism entrepreneurs.

Conference participants are encouraged to bring photographs of their operations or marketing materials to display in a special exhibit at the trade show called "Agritourism in Action: Show Your Stuff." Participants may also choose special "networking topic tables" to share conversation with other attendees about a topic of interest over lunch.

"Sharing ideas and experiences among entrepreneurs is very valuable," says Dan Strasser, agritourism coordinator with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and another of the conference planners. "We are incorporating several activities to facilitate networking during the two-day conference."

The conference is among efforts sponsored by the Tennessee Agritourism Initiative partners to build farm income in the state. Initiative partners include the state's departments of Agriculture, Tourist Development and Economic and Community Development; the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation; and UT Extension. Funding for the conference comes, in part, from Initiative partners, the Tennessee Agritourism Association and USDA Rural Development.

Conference information is available online at the Center for Profitable Agriculture's Web site at

Online registration can be accessed on the site as well. There is a registration fee of $75 if registered by Dec. 15. Late registration is $125.

Early registration is encouraged as space is limited.

Bobwhite numbers declining in Arkansas

Bob-white! Bob-white! The call of the bobwhite quail used to be heard loud and often, especially in the rural parts of the state, but it’s becoming scarcer as the birds’ numbers dwindle.

The population of the northern bobwhite quail has declined 65 percent in the last 20 years throughout its territory in the southeastern United States, according to some estimates.

Rex Roberg, Arkansas Extension wildlife management program associate, is on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s quail restoration committee, a group that encourages the development of quail-friendly habitat.

“There are no statewide statistics available on the bobwhite quail population,” Roberg says, “but the committee intends to create a system for counting the birds sometime in the near future.”

Becky McPeake, Arkansas Extension wildlife specialist, says some people believe fire ants are to blame for the declining number of birds. The ants are attracted to moisture on cracked quail eggs and to the moisture on the chicks as the eggs hatch, and a fire ant attack on one egg can eventually decimate an entire nest.

“Fire ants may be to blame for some bobwhite deaths,” McPeake says, “but a more likely reason for the overall drop in population is the disappearance of suitable quail habitat.”

The use of pesticides and herbicides have allowed farmers to rid their pastures of insects and the kinds of weeds, brush and tall, clumpy grasses that quails depend on for survival.

Farms are now larger than they were 50 years ago, with smaller farms becoming less and less economically feasible. Farmers often plant from fence row to fence row. More space around fence rows, field borders, ditches and roadsides — once left mostly unmanicured — is used for growing crops.

Bobwhite quails need the now-scarce shrubby cover for protection, especially for nesting and in the first few weeks of life.

Fescue and bermuda, grasses widely used for cattle and other foraging animals, offer no protection for quail.

“Grasses that grow in thick mats block out native grasses and weeds that might benefit the birds,” says McPeake. “Chicks and adult birds alike need bare ground for feeding and for roaming; thick ground cover, like that provided by fescue and bermuda grasses, makes it tougher for them to travel and find food. Tall, clumpy grasses leave ground bare between plantings but also offer protection from predators for young quails as they move about.”

The Cooperative Extension Service can help landowners who want to alter or add agricultural practices that will support bobwhite quail populations.

For those with more than 40 acres of land, adding native grasses to their pastures, such as big bluestem, Indian grass and gamagrass, as well as allowing common weeds, including ragweed, to thrive will benefit quail and other wildlife.

Landowners are encouraged to create buffers along woody areas, allowing those native grasses to grow alongside shrubs that provide woody cover year-round, such as mayhaw and blackberry.

Brush piles created by thinning or harvesting timber can also be a suitable habitat for quail, so leaving those instead of burning them is a good environmental practice.

As a general rule, farmers can facilitate a climb in the quail population by limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides, because doing so means providing a more natural habitat and a more available food supply.

Analyst Predicts 16M Tons Biodiesel Output by 2009

This year's world biodiesel output was around 5 million metric tons. According to Nancy DeVore, a senior analyst with Bunge Ltd., that figure will triple over the next three years.

Speaking at the Terrapinn Biofuels Finance & Investment World conference in London, DeVore said that world biodiesel production will be nearly 16 million tons in 2009.

"It will be a big challenge for the world to meet biodiesel demand," she says.

DeVore says her prediction accounts for projects expected to be built, not just those currently being planned.

The large amount of soybean meal left as a byproduct of soy-based biodiesel - only 20% of crushed soybeans is oil - will limit the use of soybeans in biodiesel production, DeVore says. Other oilseeds, such as rapeseed, could fill the demand with less byproduct, she adds, and another Bunge official says that more rapeseed will be sourced from Eastern Europe in the coming years.

Wyoming Voters Register Support for State's Troops

Wyoming voters in Albany County donated approximately 500 pounds of non-perishable food items, stationery, healthcare articles, gifts and other items for troops from Albany County and Wyoming serving in the Middle East. They also signed thank-you cards to the troops.

The items, which filled 25 cardboard boxes, will arrive in the Middle East prior to the holiday season. The goods were collected at Albany County polling places during the Nov. 7 general election.

"It's been a great community project, a way for local residents to show support for the troops serving our country," says one of the organizers, Laramie 4-H volunteer Carl Majewski.

"Local 4-Hers got involved in the effort. That tells me they care about others," adds Majewski, the supply technician for UW Army ROTC.

Helping with the project were the Albany County 4-H Junior Leaders, Albany County UW Cooperative Extension Service, UW Army ROTC, Albany County Cow-Belles, Albany County Stockgrowers and Crow Creek Meat Processing in Cheyenne.

Majewski said one donor from Laramie purchased $100 in goods, and a local couple turned the project into a family affair.

"I heard that before this family starts doing their own Christmas shopping, they perform work for a charity," says Majewski. "This year, they chose the Yellow Ribbon project to support our troops, and they made a donation to this project. They are teaching their kids about what is going on around them in the world and to care not just about themselves but others."

Molly Keil, a 4-H youth educator for the Albany County CES, says "One very generous family put together holiday bags for 10 soldiers. They included disposable cameras, stationery, hand wipes, shoe inserts, lip balm and other items. They also included a letter in each bag thanking the troops for their service to the country."

Those wishing to donate items can contact the Albany County CES office at (307) 721-2571.

Conservation Champion

The Cedars Plantation owned by Jeff Churan and family of Avalon, was named national winner of the "Adopt-A-Covey" quail habitat management program by Quail Unlimited and Budweiser Nov. 29.

More than 100,000 acres of private lands were enrolled by some 300 participants in all nine QU regions of the United States during the first year of the "Adopt-A-Covey" program. Adopt-A-Covey is the first-of-its-kind private land conservation initiative introduced to improve quail densities by encouraging and recognizing private land owners to properly manage and enhance quail habitat through wildlife-friendly practices on their properties.

Churan successfully designed and implemented an intensive quail habitat program, expected to serve as a benchmark program for private land owners, on 360 acres of land in Missouri, while still maintaining a viable agricultural operation and his family's farm income. To help execute his quail management plan, he enlisted the services of private land conservationists within the Missouri, as recommended by the QU Northern Bobwhite Conservation Initiative.

Churan divided his land into 36, ten-acre habitat blocks with the assumption that one covey could occupy one block – creating three, 120-acre hunting courses. Churan's goal for each block was to ensure 50% of the land was crop, 50% grass, and that each included covey headquarters in woody cover. Since 1997, his efforts have increased the number and size of quail coveys from 11 to 28, and last year alone he increased four full coveys, estimated at ten birds per covey.

"I'm convinced that awareness is the key to wider landowner acceptance of wildlife-friendly practices on their farms, and will be happy to offer our farm as a demonstration area to show what can be done," Churan says.

Quail Unlimited/Budweiser's "Adopt-A-Covey" program was established in 2005. Enrollment is free, and can be completed online at the QU Web site

Conner Holds Out Hope for Ag Research

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner, a Benton County, Ind., native, returned home to Indiana last week and spoke at a bioenergy symposium. Sponsored by Purdue University, it was included as part of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science of Society meetings in Indianapolis.

Former Purdue Dan Vic Lechtenberg chaired the meeting. He is now a vice-president in charge of engagement at Purdue. Loosely defined, 'engagement' is carrying the concept of extension delivery of information into other sectors of the ag business and consumer world beyond the traditional boundaries of agricultural and horticultural users.

Conner's most important message may have come when he addressed possibilities for the '07 Farm Bill. "Biofuels will be a debatable issue in the bill, and it is opening up opportunities for other areas that have not been adequately addressed with funds in the past due to tight budgets," he says.

Much higher corn prices due to the demand for ethanol now and perceived demand in the near term mean little or no government expenditures for subsidies to producers through the current Farm Bill at this time. So far the demand for corn has brought soybean and wheat prices up along with it. Wheat prices were already doing well even before the corn price train skyrocketed forward.

"We believe that due to demand for ethanol, we could see higher prices for a long time," Conner adds. "So money that was used for subsidies in the past could possibly be available for other things. One of those things would be agricultural research.

"Ag research in the past has usually not received as much funding because it is a long-term benefit, and Congress tends to take care of short-term concerns first (through subsidy payments). This time there may be an opportunity to make the case that we ought to put some of that money toward more research for the future."

Realize, however, that there are likely many other thoughts swirling through Washington, D.C. Some may prefer just to drop the amount of money USDA gets for the ag sector, rather than dedicate it to another use. And the recent turn in politics is still a wild card that could affect the debate.

Previously Secretary Johanns said that the administration would come out with specific proposals on various titles of the farm bill sometime in early winter. he narrowed it to mid-January to early February. Asked about when proposals might come out, Conner says they're hoping they can issue proposals sometime this winter. It's possible, he acknowledged, that the change in leadership in Washington, D. C. could affect the exact timing of their plans.

Don't expect a full, proposed legislative package coming from USDA, Conner says. It's the same message Johanns delivered at the Grow America Project summit in Indianapolis in late October. Instead, look for specific proposals in a number of areas, but not one big package.

Iowan Elected Treasurer of National Biodiesel Board

Ed Ulch, who farms near Solon in eastern Iowa and is a director for the Iowa Soybean Association, has been elected treasurer of the National Biodiesel Board. Ulch was elected in November during the National Biodiesel Board annual meetings in Washington, D.C.

Ulch represents the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) on the National Biodiesel Board (NBB). He has served on NBB's governing board for three years and was a director for the Iowa Soybean Promotion Board from 2000-2005, serving as treasurer in 2003. He has been an ISA director since 2005. "I am very pleased with my new position and I look forward to working with the other board members to confront the challenges faced by the biodiesel industry," says Ulch.

NBB is the national trade association representing the biodiesel industry as the coordinating body for research and development in the United States. NBB was founded in 1992 by several state soybean commodity groups, including ISA.

Goal: sustainable biodiesel growth

Since that time, NBB has developed into a comprehensive industry association, which coordinates and interacts with a broad range of cooperators including industry, government and academia. NBB's membership is comprised of state, national and international feedstock organizations, biodiesel suppliers, fuel marketers and distributors and technology providers.

The mission of NBB is to advance the interests of its members by creating sustainable biodiesel industry growth. NBB serves as the industry's central coordinating entity and will be the single voice for its diverse membership base.

To learn more about ISA or about soy biodiesel, visit ISA's Web site at or to learn more about the National Biodiesel Board, log on to  

Biodiesel positively impacts economy

A recent study by the National Biodiesel Board found that biodiesel significantly contributes to the economies of both Iowa and the United States. Biodiesel production is estimated to create more than 39,000 new jobs by the year 2015 and $13.6 billion that would have been spent on foreign oil will remain in the United States.

The biodiesel industry will also have a positive influence on farm prices. Added demand for soybean oil to produce biodiesel will increase the need for soybeans and raise soybean prices and revenue for growers. A study by USDA shows that every 50 million gallons of biodiesel raises soybean prices one percentage point.

Iowa's farmers, consumers and taxpayers will all directly profit from expansion of the biodiesel industry, points out Ulch. Farmers will benefit from the development and steady growth of domestic demand for soybeans to fuel biodiesel production. Iowa soybean farmers can expect average farm-level prices to increase an average of $0.095 per bushel over the next five years for an increase of $61 million in soybean cash receipts.

"Increased production of biodiesel in Iowa will create nearly 13,800 new jobs in all areas of the economy by 2010," he adds, citing projections in the study. "The new jobs combined with the revenue from the increase in biodiesel production will result in an additional $1.3 billion of household income for Iowans."

Sign-up to Showcase Good Conservation

You can show that you care about conservation by signing up to showcase the good practices that are being carried out on your farm or a public site you are familiar with. Applications are now being accepted for the 2007 Trees Forever Working Watersheds: Buffers & Beyond Program.

"We want people to nominate sites to showcase water quality protection practices," says Shannon Ramsay, president of Trees Forever, a national nonprofit organization based at Marion, Iowa.

Working Watersheds: Buffers & Beyond is a statewide grant program in which Trees Forever, Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Growmark, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and farmers collaborate to fund, implement and improve water quality across Iowa by establishing buffers, wetlands and other best management practices.

Nominations now being accepted

Demonstration sites along streams and rivers, primarily on farms, will be selected to participate in the 2007 Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond program. Field days will bring producers, landowners and communities together to showcase how buffers intercept field runoff, sediment and pollutants through the use of trees and other vegetation. A few public sites will be selected such as fairgrounds, community colleges or schools for their educational value.

The partnership provides coordination assistance and cost share to select landowners for costs incurred. Landowners can also benefit from a seed cost-share program offered through Growmark.

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2007 Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond program.
Ideal sites exhibit many of the following characteristics:
* Highly visible and easily accessible sites.
* Landowners actively involved in their rural community/watershed and willing to allow field days and tours of site
* Site plantings, which were installed to address long-term economic needs, beyond CRP payments
* Streams that are first, second or third order in size
* Sites that are representative of local eco-regions.
* Site proximity to local water issues and/or local watershed programs
* Landowners who show commitment to long-term whole farm management planning
* Ability to involve the local community, such as school classes, local soil and water conservation districts, etc
* Sites enrolled in CRP or CREP for the riparian buffer program, either forested or grass

Landowners may select from a menu of conservation practices including buffers, streambank stabilization, stream channel enhancements, constructed wetlands, and/or plantings around livestock facilities. A flexible design allows landowners to choose the trees, shrubs, or grass species that fit their goals for the property.

A Trees Forever field coordinator will work directly with landowners to help them meet the goals of their buffer site and to help connect with local resources and partners. To nominate your site for the Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond download the application at Or call Trees Forever at (800) 369-1269 for assistance. Nomination deadline is November 30, 2006.