USDA to focus on veterans for ag careers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and American Legion National Commander Fang Wong have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will help veterans find positions that promote agriculture, animal and plant health, food safety, nutrition, conservation and rural communities.
With this partnership, USDA and the Legion will leverage existing resources to expand opportunities for veterans while promoting USDA programs and services in communities throughout the country.
Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities — a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. More than 5,300 American Legion posts are located in counties with populations under 40,000, and one-third of the Legion's membership call rural America home.
The Legion has long been committed to helping transitioning military personnel and America's veterans find jobs and USDA will actively recruit them for employment while promoting greater awareness of USDA programs.
Specifically, USDA and the Legion have agreed to promote USDA vacancy announcements, share information about activities in newsletters, provide information about USDA programs and vacancies through established networks as well as the on the Web and promote veteran-owned business participation in USDA contracts.
USDA also will provide information about the opportunities and support it offers, so that service members who want to start their own rural business, farm or ranch are aware of USDA programs, grants, loans or small-business contracts. USDA education, training, outreach and mentoring programs, such as www.START2FARM.gov, will help encourage veterans to be the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
More information about USDA programs is available at www.usda.gov.
Farm Bill hearing to be held in Saranac Lake
SARANAC LAKE — A series of field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill will take place throughout March and April, including one in Saranac Lake.
The other stops will be in Illinois, Arkansas and Kansas. The hearings will give members of the House Agriculture Committee the opportunity to hear firsthand how U.S. farm policy is working for farmers and ranchers in advance of writing legislation.
The field hearings are the next step in the farm bill development. Last June, Chairman Frank Lucas began the effort when the Agriculture Committee held 11 audit hearings on agriculture programs to look for ways to improve programs for farmers, increase efficiency and reduce spending.
The information gained from the audits combined with perspective from the field will serve as a useful reference for committee members.
"Field hearings represent one of the best parts of writing the farm bill because it gives us a chance to see the countryside and visit with folks who are directly impacted by our policy decisions in Washington," Lucas said. "Agricultural policy affects every American. Ensuring that our farmers and ranchers have the necessary tools they need to continue to produce an affordable and stable food supply is as important to our country as national defense."
For those who cannot attend the hearings, the committee plans to provide a live webcast.
The Saranac Lake meeting will be Friday, March 9, at 9 a.m. at North Country Community College, Sparks Athletic Complex, 23 Santanoni Ave., Saranac Lake.
Egg production up 6 percent for month
ALBANY — Egg production on New York farms totaled 112 million eggs in January, up 6 percent from last year, according to King Whetstone, director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York Field Office.
The number of hens and pullets of laying age, at 4.52 million, increased 5 percent from January 2011 and the rate of lay increased slightly to 2,480 eggs per 100 layers.
United States egg production totaled 7.83 billion during January 2012, down slightly from last year. Production included 6.78 billion table eggs and 1.05 billion hatching eggs, of which 972 million were broiler-type and 73 million were egg-type. The total number of layers during January 2012 averaged 338 million, down 1 percent from last year. January egg production per 100 layers was 2,319 eggs, up 1 percent from January 2011.
February milk prices decrease
ALBANY — Prices received by New York producers for milk sold during February were down from a month earlier, according to King Whetstone, director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York Field Office. The price of corn, hay and apples decreased also. The price of potatoes increased. Many previous month prices were revised due to more complete sales information.
Dairy farmers in the Empire State received an average of $18.80 per hundredweight of milk sold during February, down $1.70 from January and 80 cents less than last February.
Grain corn, at $6.52 per bushel, was down 2 cents from January and down 8 cents from last year. Hay averaged $102 per ton, down $5 from January 2012 and February 2011. Potatoes averaged $14.70 per cwt., up 10 cents from January and 70 cents higher than February of last year. Apples, at $30.10 per cwt., were down $1.60 from last month but up $5 from last February.
Owens requests IRS help for farmers
WASHINGTON — Rep. William Owens is seeking help for farmers suffering from tax difficulties stemming from the MF Global collapse.
In light of the bankruptcy of the large financial firm, the trustee will be substantially delayed in delivering 1099 forms. This could make it impossible for many farmers to file their full tax returns on a timely basis even if they receive an extension, Owens stated.
As it stands, many former clients may encounter a scenario where they cannot determine their tax liability.
This is obviously the result of MF Global's collapse, Owens noted, and through no fault of the farmers involved. However, many of these same individuals face filing deadlines for their 2011 taxes as early as March 1.
Owens is suggesting guidance be issued to farmers providing a grace period of 90 days following the delivery of 1099s from the MF Global trustee in bankruptcy. This may require the IRS to work directly with former MF Global customers so they have complete guidance on how to account for assets that have been disrupted as a result of the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.
Farm receives certification for livestock
WEST CHAZY — The laying hens, wool sheep and sheep-breeding stock of Gleann Dair Farm in West Chazy have been certified as Animal Welfare Approved. This certification and food label lets consumers know that these animals were raised in accordance with the highest animal-welfare standards in the United States, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent family farm.
Like other AWA farmers across the country, Shelley Bouyea and Bart Charland understand the growing consumer interest in how animals are being raised. Raising animals outdoors on pasture or range has known benefits for animals, consumers and the environment. While Bouyea grew up on a dairy farm and always wanted to farm as an adult, Gleann Dair has only been a working farm since 2006.
The owners are proud of their holistic approach to farming. All aspects of their farm depend on one another, from the landscaping to having the hens follow the sheep around to scratch up the manure.
"We're very proud of how we have an interdependent system. It's a whole farm, not just separate areas," Bouyea said.
New York farm numbers decline
ALBANY — The number of farms in New York for 2011 decreased from a year earlier, according to King Whetstone, director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, New York Field Office.
The number of farms for 2011 is estimated at 36,000. Land in farms was 7 million acres.
Farms with sales over $500,000 increased by 50 to 1,800, while farms with sales between $250,000 and $499,999 fell by 150 to 1,300.
The area of land operated by farms in these two groups totaled 2.5 million acres, equal to a year ago. The next smaller sales class, farms with sales between $100,000 and $249,999, decreased by 200 to 3,200 while land operated by these farms decreased to 1.1 million acres. There were 10,800 farms with sales between $10,000 and $99,999 compared with 10,700 a year earlier. Land they operated totaled 1.8 million acres. There were 100 fewer small farms with sales between $1,000 and $9,999 in 2011, at 18,900. Land in farms for this class remained the same as last year at 1.6 million acres.
The number of farms in the United States in 2011 is estimated at 2.2 million, down slightly from 2010. Total land in farms, at 917 million acres, decreased 1.85 million acres from 2010. The average farm size is 420 acres, up 1 acre from the previous year.
Precise feeding of cows shows savings
ALBANY — Learning how to feed precisely the right diet to dairy cows can add up to less purchasing of feed and nutrients, lower costs and a reduction in nutrients returning to the environment through cow manure.
This management practice, in turn, decreases farm costs without any loss in milk production or milk income.
With funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute (NYFVI), project leaders, Field Crop Specialist Kevin Ganoe and Dairy Specialist Dave Balbian — with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Central New York Dairy and Field Crops Team — trained farmers recently on how to use feed and pasture sampling, and computer-based analysis spreadsheets, to make better use of pasture and crop resources.
"Precision feeding training helps farmers see where they can maximize the feed production value of their farm and, in many cases, adjust their feeding program to benefit the cows, the farm and natural-resources stewardship," Ganoe said.
Ganoe and Balbian helped dairy farmers evaluate feeding program inputs in terms of feed quantity and quality, costs and nutrient outputs.
"Precision feeding analysis is a great way to decrease a farm's environmental footprint by improving production and economic efficiencies," Balbian said.
Doug Purinton of Elm Tree Farms in Newport said he participated in the training two years ago when milk prices were very low and it was the best program he ever attended.
"Seeing our data in black and white on paper clearly focused our attention on how we could cut our grain back and make better use of our homegrown forage," he said. "We adjusted our feeding program over three weeks' time and the cows never faltered on milk production. It was unbelievable how well it worked."
Purinton said being able to cut the amount of excess concentrates in his feed ration saves him approximately $20,000 a year.
For more information about the New York Farm Viability Institute's dairy and other agricultural projects, visit www.nyfvi.com or call 315-453-3823.