Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Happy birthday wishes for Cooperative Extension (Oct. 21, 2014)

Pig Tales

By Dr. Rich Barczewski, Associate Professor, Delaware State University

It is hard to believe but Cooperative Extension is 100 years old.
The Smith-Lever Act, which was passed in 1914, established the Cooperative Extension Service and I have to say, Happy Birthday Extension.
Many of you know, that I started my working career as a county agent in Kent County Del., and then later became a livestock specialist for the state of Delaware prior to joining the faculty at Delaware State University.
While I have no regrets about my career change, I have to admit that working for Cooperative Extension was one of the most rewarding times in my life.
There is something special about helping people and Cooperative Extension is all about helping people do a better job on their farms, with their livestock and in their lives.
I can also say that I never worked harder, put in more hours either.
One of the nice things about Cooperative Extension is that it is one place that you can go to get unbiased information from someone who is not trying to sell you something.
Please do not get me wrong on this: I am not saying that other sources of information are less accurate, but only that the folks at the Extension office are providing you research based information — often generated right in your own backyard.
If there are any problems with the system at the present time is that there has been an eroding of the funding for critical positions that enabled Extension agents to be at the cutting edge of addressing your weed, insect, cultural practices, ration balancing and animal health issues.
This lack of funding has made it difficult for universities to replace critical positions that generated the research information that is so vital to the agriculture community.
In some ways, I am often dismayed when the agricultural community does not scream, and scream loud when it is announced that a critical person is not going to be replaced.
Where are they going to get their information? If it is available elsewhere than I guess it is not worth the bother but in some cases, we have seen one state after another in a region give up specialists in areas needing support.
One critical piece of the Extension Service is the county agent. In some cases, we have seen an erosion of these folks too where a county may have to share an agent with another county or where the agent may have split duties being divided between one job and another.
For the system to work as efficiently as possible, you need to have a staff of agents and specialists.
The agents need to be a viable part of the community, gaining the trust of the agricultural producers and serving as a catalyst between the county and the university.
When the system works best, problems are identified in the county, the county agent makes the specialist aware of the issue and they in turn develop a research study, often a field-plot or field trial to investigate a possible solution to the problem.
Once the study is completed, the data are shared back with the county and surrounding area so others experiencing similar problems know what to do.
It takes a lot of support, a lot of communication and a dedicated staff for this to work the way it was intended.
In addition, it is critical that the other faculty and staff at the university understand the system and its importance to the state and region.
Unfortunately, far too many faculty at many of our universities today have no idea of why Cooperative Extension was formed and are clueless to its intended purpose.
So as we hit this milestone, I want to thank all the county agents and specialists whom I have known over the years.
Thank you for your dedication to the agricultural industry, for your tireless hours in the field and for your commitment to this great industry we all know and love.
Happy Birthday.

FSA sets key dates in Farm Bill safety net programs (Oct. 21, 2014)

Keeping the Farm

By Calvin Parrish, State Executive Director, Virginia Farm Service Agency

We have announced key dates for farm owners and producers to keep in mind regarding the new 2014 Farm Bill established programs, Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage
The new programs, designed to help producers better manage risk, usher in one of the most significant reforms to U.S. farm programs in decades.
Dates associated with ARC and PLC that farm owners and producers need to know:
• Sept. 29, 2014 to Feb. 27, 2015: Land owners may visit their local Farm Service Agency office to update yield history and/or reallocate base acres.
• Nov. 17, 2014 to March 31, 2015: Producers make a one-time election of either ARC or PLC for the 2014 through 2018 crop years;
• Mid-April 2015 through summer 2015: Producers sign contracts for 2014 and 2015 crop years; and
• October 2015: Payments for 2014 crop year, if needed.
USDA leaders will visit with producers across the country to share information and answer questions on the ARC and PLC programs.
USDA helped create online tools to assist in the decision process, allowing farm owners and producers to enter information about their operation and see projections that show what ARC and/or PLC will mean for them under possible future scenarios. The new tools are now available at Farm owners and producers can access the online resources from the convenience of their home computer or mobile device at any time.
Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.
The 2014 Farm Bill also authorized the Margin Protection Program for dairy producers.
The new, voluntary risk management program replaces the Milk Income Loss Contract program which expired on Sept. 1.
MPP-Dairy offers protection to dairy producers when the difference (the margin) between the all-milk price and national average feed cost falls below a certain producer selected amount.
Eligible producers may purchase coverage for their dairy operation by paying an annual administrative fee of $100 and a premium, as applicable, for higher levels of coverage.
Producers in the dairy operation will have to select a desired coverage level ranging from $4 to $8, in 5-cent increments and a desired coverage percentage level ranging from 25 to 90 percent, in 5 percent increments. Producers will also have to decide whether or not to participate in the MPP-Dairy Program or the Livestock Gross Margin program administered by the Risk Management Agency, but they will not be allowed to participate in both.
A decision tool is available to help producers make coverage level decisions.
MPP registration has begun and will continue until Nov. 28 for the 2014 and 2015 marketing years.
Dairy operators will establish their production history during registration period.
Verification of the production records will be required.
Producers encouraged to contact their local FSA Office for more information on ARC, PLC and MPP or to schedule an appointment to review the new programs.