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Conservation funds available for some

If you’re a beginning farmer or rancher, have only a small farm or ranch, or are in a group that has historically been underserved by USDA, you could be eligible for special incentives to apply conservation on your land.

FSA’s sign-up dates are earlier

Since Farm Service Agency programs are growing even more complex, we’ve dusted off an old favorite — a look at FSA close-up. It addresses questions asked at local FSA offices. State staff provide answers.

Help going organic

A growing number of California farmers are considering a switch to organic production, if you are one, check with your NRCS office. The Natural Resources Conservation Service, obligated $3.3 million in Environmental Quality Incentive Program cost-share funds last year to help 158 farmers on 13,000 acres in California who are organic or transitioning to organic farming.

You have another chance at ACRE

Whether to sign up in the average crop revenue election program was a major dilemma a year ago. Compared to the national average, more Hoosiers signed up for ACRE. Still, only a fraction of Indiana producers chose ACRE over the Farm Service Agency’s direct and countercyclical payment program. There’s another chance to sign up for ACRE this year.

USDA: It’s not just for farmers

Volatility is up in markets and the world economy. Some of that volatility could impact your business, say Mike Boehlje and Allan Gray.

Start ‘weaning off’ Uncle Sam now

Many of us in agriculture have grown used to “milking” Uncle Sam via farm-program benefits, disaster payments, even cost-sharing. Do you see these things ending if our government dives deeper into debt? Any advice on how to “wean off”?

Sign-up deadline is June 1

Farmers have until June 1 to sign up and enroll in the 2010 USDA farm program. That’s the deadline for the traditional program, the 2010 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment program, also known as DCP. It’s also the deadline for the Average Crop Revenue Election, or ACRE, program, an option that was first available last year.

Provide FSA with accurate info

When applying for Farm Service Agency programs, farmers often go to the local FSA office with only a general understanding of the programs and wondering whether they will receive the maximum available program payments. Most FSA employees want you to receive all available program payments, but it is their job to review your application for complete compliance.

Full partner for 5 years

No one brought out birthday cake with five candles when the Indiana State Department of Agriculture turned 5 years old last spring. Both department personnel and the farmers they serve were too busy trying to sustain a strong ag economy in the middle of a recession everywhere else to stop and celebrate.

Skillman on ISDA’s history

When Gov. Mitch Daniels signed legislation creating the Indiana State Department of Agriculture in 2005, there was excitement and yet apprehension. Indiana had operated for nearly 190 years without a department of agriculture. Would the new department shore up support for agriculture in key areas of state government? Would it interfere with regulatory functions already handled by Purdue University?

ISDA director reflects on first year: Working on value, communication

Joe Kelsay, director of ISDA, spent a rare moment back home to discuss the state of ISDA. Kelsay, Whiteland, also reflected on his first year of service.

FDA requiring larger, more striking warnings

Imagine a full-color photograph of a smoker blowing smoke out of a hole in his throat. Picture the corpse of a smoker lying in a casket.

USDA simplifies crop insurance

USDA’s Risk Management Agency has combined and streamlined federally subsidized crop insurance products.The policies remain pretty much the same. But the names are all different.

Bringing acres back to row crop

Are you thinking about bringing new acres into row crop production in 2011? How would that affect your eligibility for USDA farm program benefits? What other information do you need to report to your local Farm Service Agency office for 2011?

When is it a SURE deal?

There are some major changes in crop insurance policies this year, and the deadline to buy crop insurance for spring-planted crops in Iowa is March 15. Contact your crop insurance agent as soon as possible if you haven’t already. You need to buy private crop insurance to be eligible for USDA’s Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, or SURE, which is USDA’s crop disaster aid program.

FSA explains its system for numbering farms

A farmer asks: It seems like every year I have a different farm number assigned to my farm by the USDA Farm Service Agency for farm program purposes. My local FSA office says this is the result of a reconstitution. Why is that? Why can’t I keep my old numbers?

National dairy policy needs an overhaul

Dave Forgey, Logansport, is good at what he does. When he was a conventional dairyman, he raised excellent alfalfa. Now he’s a leader in grazing and seasonal dairying.

Where do fruits, vegetables fit?

There are a lot of changes going on in rural Iowa. The past several years has seen new farmers, as well as established farmers, excited about growing vegetables or other alternative crops on some of their cropland.

Inform local FSA of new acres

With high corn and soybean prices, many farmers will bring new acres into row-crop production in 2011, which can affect their eligibility for USDA farm program benefits. Before bringing new acres into production, talk to your county Farm Service Agency.

New buffer rules worry Western growers

With the comment period closed since April on proposed buffer zone regulations by the National Marine and Fisheries Service, Pacific Northwest farmers are anticipating what rules will impact them and when.

Dollars to start

Tom Grzadzieleski Jr. is taking the plunge. The 26-year-old from Drayton, N.D., is a beginning farmer and is making use of the USDA’s Beginning Farmer Loan Program to buy land.

Beginning farmer loan basics

The USDA Farm Service Agency makes and guarantees loans to beginning farmers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial lenders.

Reaching for more green

Dakota farmers are as green as they come. They recycle and reuse. They protect the land and water. They’re the original conservationists, the true environmentalists. But it’s been a tough couple of years for producers trying to take being green to the next level on their farms and ranches.

What are the rules for AGI?

To determine a participant’s eligibility for USDA farm program benefits, what are the rules regarding average adjusted gross income, or AGI? What forms do farmers and landowners have to fill out at the local Farm Service Agency office to satisfy AGI provisions?

FSA disaster programs

Farmers in several areas of Iowa have experienced various weather-related disasters this year, from tornadoes to flooding. USDA has several different programs that offer disaster assistance specific to livestock producers.

Get emergency conservation aid

Flooding, hail, tornadoes and damaging winds have struck a number of Iowa locations this year. USDA’s Farm Service Agency has a program that offers emergency conservation help to repair damaged structures such as terraces, grass waterways, etc.

DCP contract need to be revised?

You may need to revise your farm program contract with USDA’s Farm Service Agency if there has been a change in the successor of interest — for example, a death, sale of land, foreclosure, bankruptcy or a change from the originally approved shares on a Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program/Average Crop Revenue Election contract.

CREP: 10 years of rebuilding Iowa wetlands

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or CREP, celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2011. At the 2001 Iowa State Fair, the Iowa CREP agreement was signed, which created the water quality program.

Follow the rules on compliance

With high grain prices, more farmers are bringing new land into row crop production and many are getting out of compliance with their soil conservation plan. It’s costing them a lot of money. What happens with conservation compliance rules if you bring new land into production?

DCP, ACRE sign-up starts Jan. 23

Sign-up for USDA’s Direct and Countercyclical and Average Crop Revenue Election programs for 2012 crops won’t begin until Jan. 23, and the sign-up period runs through June 1. Farmers who want to enroll in ACRE for the first time can do so during that same period.

Welcome home, and a look ahead

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was recently in Des Moines, and I got to hear him speak. He talked about prospects for the new federal farm bill, which Congress will consider and, hopefully, reach agreement on and pass it before the old one expires in September. However, the first thing the secretary talked about was to offer a “welcome home” greeting to Iowans serving in the U.S. military as they returned home from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

FSA: Production evidence needed

County Farm Service Agency offices are getting questions regarding production evidence. Why does FSA require this information if you want to participate in USDA farm programs? What evidence do you need to provide?

Programs help startup farmers

USDA’s Farm Service Agency is working harder than ever to assist new farmers and help the next generation succeed. FSA recently unveiled a new Land Contract Guarantee Program, along with several other tools, to help beginning farmers build the foundation for a successful career in agriculture.

Clearing the air on waterway mowing

The word has spread that if you establish a grass waterway, especially if you accepted government help to do so, you can’t mow it during the nesting season. As it turns out, that’s half right. It depends upon which program funded the waterway.

Ag policy: in the past and into the future

Exactly 150 years ago, four fundamental pieces of agricultural legislation were passed in Congress and signed by President Abraham Lincoln.

FSA changes acreage reporting

For crop insurance and USDA farm program purposes each year, farmers must report their planted acreage information to the local Farm Service Agency office. This year there are important changes in acreage certification and crop insurance to keep in mind.

Safety net needed for ag

What is U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s outlook for the new farm bill making its way through Congress? Will new legislation be passed and signed into law before the current bill expires Sept. 30? He’s hopeful that deadline will be met.

Key FSA dates to remember

Spring is a busy time, and USDA’s Farm Service Agency has some key deadlines approaching you don’t want to miss. Circle these important farm program dates on your calendar if they pertain to your farming operation.

USDA accepts more CRP acres

USDA recently announced it would accept 3.9 million acres nationwide into its popular program that pays farmers and landowners for taking environmentally sensitive land out of crop production.

FSA’s new check payment system

A change will soon be taking place in the procedure USDA’s Farm Service Agency uses to collect money farmers owe the agency. County offices will begin a new “Over the Counter” application when collecting payments and amounts due FSA or the Commodity Credit Corporation. FSA offices will use scanners to process all collections electronically.

USDA’s 150-year impact

This year USDA is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The department was established May 15, 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed a law creating what he called “The People’s Department.” Even in the midst of a civil war, Lincoln recognized the important role America’s farmers and ranchers play in providing a safe, ample food supply for this nation and the world.

Vilsack: Farm bill needed now

Speaking in Iowa in late July, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called on Congress to take action immediately to pass the 2012 Farm Bill. He said the new bill is the only way to address disaster needs.

CRP contracts raise questions

USDA earlier this year announced it will accept more acres into the Conservation Reserve Program. The program pays landowners for taking environmentally sensitive land out of crop production and seeding that land to grass or planting trees. CRP contracts are 10 to 15 years in length.

Conservation cuts proposed in bill

Funding for soil and water conservation programs in the new 2012 Farm Bill now being debated in Congress was the focus of a recent public hearing at Logan in western Iowa. The meeting was sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, or TCRP, and the Izaak Walton League of America, or IWLA.

Iowa plays prominent role in agricultural research in United States

It should probably come as no surprise that Iowa, the top corn-producing state in the nation and a state with seven times more hogs than people, is an epicenter for our nation’s plant and animal research efforts.

Troxler addresses state of NC ag

Tornadoes in April, summertime drought and Hurricane Irene as fall approached all conspired to steal away the early-season optimism that North Carolina farmers had going into 2011. On top of that, the closure of two poultry processing plants stole away company jobs and affected the livelihoods of 200 poultry farmers and their families.

New tobacco threat: fraud

More than 200 tobacco farmers and tobacco industry representatives met at a meeting called by the Risk Management Agency on March 16 in Wilson, N.C., to discuss the growing problem of crop insurance fraud in tobacco. To make certain farmers felt able to speak freely, reporters were asked to leave at the beginning of the meeting.

TPP threatens tobacco

For one of the few times in U.S. trade history, tobacco could be eliminated from a major federal trade agreement between the United States and foreign countries. Brandie Davis, director of U.S. affairs for Philip Morris International, said it is being debated whether tobacco and tobacco products will be included in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and eight Pacific nations. She spoke at the U.S. Tobacco Forum i

New NRCS standards for Iowa

Beginning in February, Iowa farmers who signed up for new Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts with USDA, which include nutrient management and other key practices, will need to follow an updated 590 standard. The new standard also applies to any new conservation plans.

Make it easier to say ‘yes’ to livestock development

Two South Dakota milk buyers are floating an idea to encourage dairy and other livestock development in the I-29 Corridor.

Barley teamwork

A Virginia company plans to change the agricultural economy in the state for barley growers, who will now have another outlet for their barley crop. The outcome will be fuel and other products for consumers.

Inspectors guarantee top quality

John Rice starts his day long before he leaves his house. It’s about coordinating when inspections are due, making best use of his time and mapping out the day.

Geagley Lab provides dairy oversight, ensures industry makes the grade

The Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Geagley Laboratory in East Lansing is a busy place.

Dear Uncle Sam: Wake up — now!

Uncle Sam, all niceties aside, it’s time you wake up and smell the manure! It’s your doing! America’s most taxing problem is your spending problem.

CSP aids farm’s green regime

More than four decades of conserving soil and attracting wildlife is paying off for the Bensink family of rural Pleasantville in southern Iowa. The Bensinks signed a five-year contract in 2010 to receive payments through USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, to further enhance their environmentally friendly 468-acre farm.

Livestock Friendly program advancing

Nebraska’s Livestock Friendly County program is in its eighth year of operation, but so far just 14 of 93 counties have received the designation. While that figures out to be just 15% of Nebraska counties, Steve Martin, Nebraska Department of Agriculture ag promotion coordinator, says the program is “alive and kicking.”

Missouri River farmers start cleanup

The coming months won’t be easy for flooded farmers like Scott Olson of Tekamah. Of course, the past few months haven’t exactly been a cakewalk for hundreds of farmers who operate along the Missouri River.

Cotton counts

A group doesn’t have to be a huge organization to have clout; it just needs to be energized and active.

Group sets priorities for cotton industry

After the success of the Boll Weevil Eradication Program in its zone, the Southern Rolling Plains Cotton Growers Association had more time and muscle to devote to other cotton goals.

Important crop insurance dates

Corn and Soybean crop insurance deadlines are charted.

Student program helps businesses

Students get a quality education and then leave their rural community in search of a job. Businesses in rural America face increasing pressures to remain viable and competitive in today’s global environment, while dealing with continually rising energy costs. These well-documented scenarios come up in nearly every discussion about the challenges facing rural America.

Bird’s-eye view on conservation

In May this year federal conservation officials will begin a statewide effort to conduct conservation compliance reviews using aerial photography. After piloting a similar project last year in two of the agency’s five administrative areas, officials with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service have expanded the project to all tracts randomly selected for annual conservation compliance reviews.

Food compass now online

USDA recently introduced a compass, an online resource, to help guide people seeking information about the department’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative.

Specialty crop programs at stake

The number of small farms producing value-added crops such as vegetables, fruit or naturally raised livestock has grown tremendously the past decade in Iowa. Back then, most people didn’t think of these as legitimate farms. They were hobby farms. Today, these operations earn income from specialized crops and other enterprises by selling to farmers markets, restaurants, schools, hospitals, or community-supported agriculture, groups, as well as directly to consumers.

MILC helps support dairy farms

USDA’s Milk Income Loss Contract Program, administered by the Farm Service Agency, compensates dairy producers when domestic milk prices fall below a specified level. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized MILC through Sept. 30. The program has no set funding level.

Beware of Swampbuster rules

When a drainage district makes improvements, such as increasing the size of a main line, landowners connected to the system need to be sure to follow wetland compliance or Swampbuster provisions. This reminder comes from Marty Adkins, state resource conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa.

Forum: Boost conservation in bill

Some 30 participants in the recent Eastern Iowa Farm Tour and Farm Bill Forum had an opportunity to view firsthand a number of conservation practices that help protect Iowa’s water, soil and wildlife habitats. Theresa Weiss, district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, led the June 6 tour.

Is there a new grain dryer in your future?

The farmer on the phone wasn’t sure where to start. After limping through last fall, he wanted to upgrade his grain handling capacity. But should he trade dryers or add more wet holding capacity?

Cattle, wildlife click

Cattle and wildlife work splendidly for Rick Hanson and business partner Matt Matthews on the Merrick Davis Ranch operated by their H&M Cattle Co. in Shackelford County, Texas.

Is LGM a good margin-protector?

We’ve been hearing more about how the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy, or LGM-Dairy, insurance program is being made easier and more convenient to use. But isn’t it more convenient to just contract milk through my cooperative to cover the same risks?

‘To do’ list for crop loss

John Armatys of First National Insurance in Fullerton has been selling farm and crop insurance and serving area farmers for three decades. He says that when there is a crop loss in the field during the growing season, there are specific steps farmers need to be aware of to make their insurance claims go smoothly.

AWEP funds provide ways to save water

What a difference a year made for Joel Bergman of Loomis. In 2010, with incentive payments from a water conservation program, Bergman was finally able to convert a gated-pipe-irrigated quarter section to a combination of center-pivot and subsurface drip systems.

NRCS sets 8 priorities for funds

To better distribute federal dollars, Nebraska conservation folks have identified eight “primary resource concerns” in the state.

Farm moves into high tech

It was not that long ago that “bar codes” referred to what the bartender told phoning wives checking on the whereabouts of their spouses.