Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Farm breweries: New Opportunity for Md. farmers (Nov. 24, 2015)

Ag Law

By Mayhah Suri, Research Associate, Ag Law Education Initiative, CANR Agricultural and Resource Economics

Along with the national craze for small-scale, locally-made produce, interest in local beer has exploded.
In just 10 years, the number of microbreweries in the United States has increased 400 percent, according to the National Brewer’s Association.
To help farmers capitalize on this growing industry, the State of Maryland has created the Class 8 Farm Brewery License. This farmers-only license allows you to serve your beer on-site, not just sell it like other brewery licenses. With a Class 8 license, you may sell and deliver beer to a wholesale company or individual consumers. You may sell, bottle, and/or contract for up to 15,000 barrels of beer in a calendar year, and may also sell the ingredients you grow, such as hops or grain, to other producers. The license has an annual fee of $200 and the application can be found online.
The tricky part about getting the farm brewery license is that you must also comply with Federal regulations and local laws. U.S. alcoholic beverage laws are complicated because there are Federal, state, and local (including county) laws and each layer of the law has specific requirements. Anyone who wants to sell and/or serve alcohol needs Federal approval, granted by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The application process for a Federal Brewer’s Notice is completely online through the TTB website.
Before submitting Federal applications, it is critical to make sure your operation is compliant with your county’s laws. The best place to start is with your local agriculture marketing professional to get more information about local alcohol laws. As of now, the license allows you to sell and serve beer regardless of local alcohol laws, except in Garrett County, where you may operate on Sundays only where voters have approved Sunday alcohol sales. Although the letter of the farm brewery law allows you to disregard local laws restricting the sale and service of alcohol, it is prudent to stay within the confines of local ordinances. Since this law is relatively new, some portions of it may change as more farmers venture into this opportunity. Respecting the local laws can help prevent issues in the future.
Zoning codes must also be kept in mind. Your agricultural marketing professional can help you find the right people to talk to about zoning permits. Once you have met those requirements, you can move on to the Federal Brewer’s Notice and the requirements of the Class 8 license.
The Class 8 Farm Brewery license requires that the beer you sell and serve contains at least one ingredient grown on your farm. While the license is granted to a farm address, the brewing facility may be located elsewhere, though brewing onsite may be easier. With a Class 8 license, farmers may serve their beer for consumption on the premises as long as each sample is less than six ounces.
You may offer the six ounce “samples” for free or charge per glass, and serve beer on-site and sell for offsite consumption from 10 am to 10 pm seven days a week. The beer you sell to be taken home must be in sealed containers like cans or bottles, or re-sealable containers like a growler. Again, although this law allows you to sell at these times regardless of local laws, it may be wiser in the long run to respect local regulations.
A big difference between the Class B license and other liquor licenses is that farm breweries are allowed to serve certain types of prepared foods, including chili, cheese, and fruits. Most other liquor licenses require a separate permit in order to serve food. Remember that having this farm brewery license does not exempt you from health and safety guidelines.
As with any new business opportunity, it is important to be well-informed before starting a farm brewery. Good resources include your local agricultural marketing professional, the TTB website, and your local zoning board. Despite challenges that may come with your new venture, the explosion in demand for local, small-scale breweries coupled with this farm brewing license is an exciting opportunity for farmers interested in expanding or diversifying their business.
For the full guide, please visit

Protecting the Bottom Line (Nov. 24, 2015)

Keeping the Farm

By Robin Talley, District Director, Delaware Farm Service Agency

Thanksgiving is upon us and we have so much to be thankful for —family, friends, good health and the ability to earn a living doing what we love. Despite a couple of dry spells, this turned out to be another great year for corn and early soybeans. The National Agricultural Statistics Service is forecasting 2015 corn and soybean yields in Delaware to be just slightly below 2014’s bin-busters.
Those yields have helped offset the bite taken out of farm revenue by sliding commodity prices. Where does that put us in terms of the price and income protections offered by the farm bill? Let’s take a look.
Last spring, farmers had to choose between three program options. All use a 12-month marketing year to calculate average prices. The 2014 marketing year for corn and soybeans ended on Aug. 31 so we are just now issuing 2014 program payments, if earned. 
The Price Loss Coverage option was designed to protect from a drop in the price. If the 12-month national average price drops below a specified amount, a payment will be triggered to make up the shortfall. For example, the reference price for corn is $3.70 per bushel. The national average price for the 2014 marketing year turned out to be $3.70 per bushel, so no payment was triggered. Same was true of soybeans.
Ag Risk Coverage is a revenue program. It has two options — county coverage and individual coverage. County coverage is tied to the expected revenue for the crop at the county level. It uses county average yields. If the current year revenue for the crop falls below 86 percent of the expected or “benchmark” revenue, a payment is triggered. 
For the 2014 crop year, we expected 2014 revenue for non-irrigated corn in Kent County, Del., to be $630 per acre. Even though the 12-month national average price fell to $3.70 from its benchmark of $5.29 per bushel, the actual county revenue turned out to be $662 per acre thanks to a stellar county yield of 179 bushels per acre.
This yield and revenue picture is pretty consistent across Delmarva so no payments were earned in most counties. The 2014 soybean yields were pretty flat in Caroline County, Md., and Accomack County, Va., compared to the historical average, so an ARC-CO payment was triggered in those counties.
Ag Risk-Individual coverage is tied to the expected revenue for all program crops grown on all farms you place in this program option. It uses actual yields for the enrolled farm or farms. Only a handful of producers selected this option. 
Nationwide, 96 percent of soybean farms, 91 percent of corn farms, and 66 percent of wheat farms elected ARC-County. Delmarva was basically the same for corn and soybeans, while wheat producers were more evenly split between ARC-County and Price Loss Coverage. 
You can find the crop revenue data for your county on the internet at, click on the link for Agricultural Risk Coverage / Price Loss Coverage. 
So that puts 2014 behind us. We won’t know for certain whether payments are triggered on 2015 crops until this time next year, when the 12-month marketing year has concluded.
As you finish planting small grains and weather permits, be sure to stop in your local FSA office and file an acreage report. The deadline is Dec. 15. At your request, we can provide your reported acreage to your crop insurance agent. This saves you time and helps ensure consistency. Give us a call before you stop in and we’ll have your maps ready.
We also encourage you to report cover crops you have planted. In Delaware, we provide summary data on cover crop acreage to the Chesapeake Bay model. Sharing this information is important to show the conservation efforts being made by farmers.
Crop insurance, FSA, and NRCS define cover crops as planted for seasonal cover and other conservation purposes such as soil health and water quality improvement. A cover crop managed and terminated according to NRCS guidelines is not considered a crop for crop insurance purposes. FSA guidelines allow haying and grazing of cover crops.
There could be no Thanksgiving without farmers so please stay safe and enjoy the holiday!