FSA Brings Christmas Back to Missouri Families

Wayne Harmon, owner of Starr Pines Farm, sells Christmas trees on his 200 acre farm near Boonville, Mo.  Harmon has used FSA’s disaster assistance program to replant trees after several disasters, including the 2012 drought.

Wayne Harmon, owner of Starr Pines Farm, sells Christmas trees on his 200 acre farm near Boonville, Mo. Harmon has used FSA’s disaster assistance program to replant trees after several disasters, including the 2012 drought.

By Dana Rogge, Public Affairs and Outreach Specialist, Missouri FSA

For many families, the holiday season kicks off with picking out the perfect tree.  Everyone bundles up in their winter coats, hats and gloves and takes a hay ride through rows of green beauties in search of the perfect evergreen that will serve as the centerpiece of all family holiday festivities. For many mid-Missouri families, that masterful search happens just outside of Boonville, Mo., at Starr Pines Farm.

Owners Wayne and Ann Harmon have been raising Christmas trees since 1986 and in 1990, they began selling trees to the public, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, on their 200-acre farm.

Most of the trees grown at Starr Pines farm are Scotch Pines, their biggest seller, and Norway Spruce. Wayne estimates he has between 32,000-35,000 trees on the farm currently, but has had as many as 65,000. Their crop is half of what it used to be because of a major hail storm in the early 2000s that destroyed nearly 50,000 trees. Continue reading

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Revisiting Boulder County Agriculture Following the Worst Flood in Colorado’s Recorded History

By Brenda Carlson, Public Affairs Specialist, FSA

Although it’s been over one year, Sept. 12, 2013, is a date forever etched in the minds of Boulder County residents as the beginning of an epic flood event that dumped a record nine inches of rain in one day and more than 17 inches for a five day total —  an amount comparable to Boulder County’s average annual rainfall totals.  The flood waters ultimately ravaged 17 counties. To say the impact on farmers and ranchers in these counties was significant is an understatement.

“Due to the time of year when the floods hit, most of the crops were out but damage to area farmland, nurseries and pastures was significant,” said Alvin Mascarenas, program technician for Boulder County USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).  “Massive amounts of debris and sedimentation covered open fields and flood waters blew out the dams on numerous ponds that provide water for livestock.” Continue reading

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USDA Announces Early Release of Commodity Tables for USDA’s Agricultural Projections to 2024

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released selected tables from its upcoming USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024 report. USDA will post online tables containing long-term supply, use, and price projections to 2024 for major crops and livestock products, and will include supporting U.S. and international macroeconomic assumptions. The complete USDA Agricultural Projections to 2024 report will be released on Feb. 11, 2015. The complete report includes a full discussion of the commodity supply and use projections, as well as projections for global commodity trade, U.S. trade value, and farm income. The early-release tables are posted on the Office of the Chief Economist’s (OCE) website at www.usda.gov/oce.

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USDA Improves Forest Health by Harvesting Biomass for Energy

More than 200,000 tons of biomass have been removed from federal lands through the USDA Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) to use for renewable energy and help reduce the risk of forest fires. BCAP provides incentives for the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands. This summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program. “This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities.” Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal. Learn more.

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Greater Protection Now Offered for Fruit, Vegetable and Specialty Crop Growers

Greater protection is now available for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. New provisions under Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program will provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup and energy crops. “For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection,” said Vilsack. Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price. Learn more.

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Registration Now Open for 2015 Ag Outlook Forum

Registration for the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “Smart Agriculture in the 21st Century,” is now open. Participants can register online to attend the forum that will feature 25 breakout sessions, five topical luncheons and more than 100 distinguished experts, discussing topics that include biotechnology, water issues and drought, local food marketing and bee/pollinator issues facing agriculture. The forum will be held Feb. 19-20, 2015, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va. Learn more or register today.

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FSA Administrator Announces Dairy Program Sign-Up Extension During Visit to TN Dairy

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Joel Bernard (left) and FSA Administrator Val Dolcini discuss Bernard’s herd management program and USDA dairy programs.

By Brenda Carlson, Public Affairs Specialist, FSA

Ninety-seven percent of all U.S. dairy operations are family-owned and the Bernard Dairy in Orlinda, Tenn. is no exception. Joel Bernard, his brother Ashley, mom Linda, dad Danny and five grandkids keep the 175-head Holstein dairy operation running smoothly. Aside from the daily demands of managing the herd and milking, the Bernards have 758 cropland acres comprised of corn and wheat that they cut for silage and soybeans they sell for grain and tobacco.

Like most family-owned and operated agricultural enterprises, the Bernards understand that risk-management is key to their success in a weather and market-dependent industry. Monthly milk price fluctuations and changes in input (feed) costs are just a few of the day-to-day challenges dairy producers face. Continue reading

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Application Deadline Extended for Dairy Margin Protection Program

The deadline for the Margin Protection Program for dairy has been extended to Dec. 19. The program protects participating dairy producers when the margin — the difference between the price of milk and feed costs — falls below levels of protection selected by the applicant. “The 2014 Farm Bill created these safety-net programs to provide safeguards against the uncertainty of weather and markets, but this safety net is not automatic. You must visit your Farm Service Agency office to enroll before Dec. 19.” Producers can use an online Web resource to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. They can type in specific operation data and explore price projections and market scenarios to determine what level of coverage is best for them. Learn more or use the Web resource to calculate the best levels of coverage.

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FFA Members Harvest Turnips for a Cause at Illinois FSA

Athens High School freshman Skyla Jewell and her fellow FFA members braved near-freezing temperatures and 25-mph winds to harvest 1,415 pounds of turnips at the Illinois Farm Service Agency Land of Lincoln and Partners Community Garden. A total of 3,030 pounds of produce was harvested in 2010, the garden’s first year. As of Nov. 18 this year, 16,035 pounds of produce had been given to the Central Illinois Foodbank, with 7,810 pounds being turnips. “We’ve never run into it being this cold before,” said Mary Kirby, public affairs-outreach specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois Farm Service Agency. Read more (The State Journal-Register).

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USDA Grants Will Connect Local Farmers to School Cafeterias

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week the awarding of several grants that support efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers. More than $5 million in grants were awarded to 82 projects spanning 42 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “USDA is proud to support communities across the country as they plan and implement innovative farm to school projects,” said Vilsack. “These inspiring collaborations provide students with healthy, fresh food, while supporting healthy local economies. Through farm to school projects, community partners are coming together to ensure a bright future for students, and for local farmers and ranchers.” According to USDA’s first-ever Farm to School Census released earlier this year, school districts participating in farm to school programs purchased and served over $385 million in local food in school year 2011-2012, with more than half of participating schools planning to increase their purchases of local food in the future. Read more or review the Farm to School Census

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