• 25Sep

    The “Feeding the World” Trope

    What do farmers think? What do consumers think?

    National Public Radio’s The Salt ran a story online this week, which also appeared on the widely listened to Morning Edition entitled “American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They?”

    I was irked by the title, because of course, not all farmers make this claim. Nevertheless, the fallacious hook drew me right in. Unfortunately, the author continued to use the term “farmer” monolithically throughout, though it was clear he was referring to farmers who advocate a high-tech, industrial style agriculture (which is still problematic – it’s not necessarily true all such advocates claim to be feeding the world).

    The loose use of “farmer” aside, the issue of whether farmers in the U.S. are actually “feeding the world” or not, is indeed taken up in an interesting way. The debate is framed perhaps too narrowly as that between advocates of industrial agriculture and those who claim industrial agriculture is damaging the environment; the author concludes that both sides are right and wrong. Consumer opinion is also considered; apparently only 13 percent of consumers think U.S. farmers have the responsibility to “feed the world” (this according to a study conducted by the Center for Food Integrity). Though, that’s the only consumer-related statistic we’re offered.

    Interested in the details? Read the entire article here. What do you think? Have you heard friends or colleagues use the language “feed the world”? Do you have an opinion on the debate?

  • 04Jul

    Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Proposed Rules (and Exemptions) For Farmers, an Easy to Understand Guide; And How to Comment on the Rules*

    The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the federal food safety law that applies to farms growing fruits and vegetables that may be eaten raw. FSMA is intended to reduce the risk of microbial contamination of fresh produce. It will be administered by the federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The law was passed two years ago, but proposed regulations were released in January 2013 for public comment (due by September 16, 2013). The Following is an “easy to understand” guide to the proposed rules, regulations, and exemptions. It is presented here to help farmers understand what impact these rules could have on their farm business and share their comments with FDA (learn how to comment on the proposed rules). This guide presents a basic overview of the lengthy and complicated proposed FSMA rules presented by FDA and should not be considered a legal document or a substitute for official FDA rules.

    There are Two Parts to FSMA: 1) The Produce Safety Rule applies to “farms” or those who grow, harvest, pack or hold covered produce. The rules apply to produce generally eaten raw, i.e. greens, melons, tomatoes, apples, etc. (aka “covered produce” or raw agricultural commodities “RAC’s”). They do NOT apply to produce not eaten raw, i.e. sweet corn, potatoes, pumpkins, etc. Also NOT covered is produce grown for personal consumption, on farm consumption, or on another farm under the same ownership. 2) The Preventive Controls Rule applies to “facilities” that manufacture, process, pack or hold human food and to operations that buy and resell products grown on other farms. These facilities will need to register with the federal government and comply with regulations outlined in the preventive controls portion of the rule. Facilities are defined in the rules and cover operations that modify or process produce from its original state.

    There are Exemptions to the Act that May Apply to Farmers. (To Continue Reading this Guide Click “Read More”) Read more »

  • 02Jul

    Immigration Reform and Agriculture: Farmer Organizations Praise Legislation

    Press releases from the National Farmers Union and United Fresh (the nation’s largest produce grower’s Association) follow. Both applaud passage of immigration reform in the Senate.

    Beginningfarmers.org does not take political positions on issues that are not specific to the promotion of beginning farmers. We do, however, strongly encourage comments and opinions from readers about the immigration reform legislation, and specifically about the way in which it is related to agriculture.

    National Farmers Union Press Release: NFU Pleased by Senate Approval of Immigration Reform 

     National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson issued the following statement in response to the Senate’s 68-32 vote in favor of S. 744, the Border Security Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act:

    “I am very pleased by the Senate’s action on immigration reform today. S. 744 includes important provisions that will bring greater stability to the farm workforce and provide a practical, legal means for immigrants to work in agriculture. It also allows for peace of mind for all parties in agriculture to know that a more easy-to-use and effective system will be enacted. I look forward to continuing to work with the House of Representatives to pass immigration legislation that achieves many of these same ends.”

    United Fresh Press Release: Landmark legislation will provide access to stable workforce for agriculture industry

    United Fresh congratulates the Senate today on the final vote of 68-32 to pass the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The comprehensive immigration reform bill includes agricultural labor provisions that secure access to a stable, legal workforce.

    “We applaud the Senate for seizing the opportunity to enact immigration reform that is desperately needed in the fresh produce industry and many other sectors of agriculture,” said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh CEO. “This bill will ease the burden on agricultural employers, create more jobs along the entire supply chain, and boost the economy. We appreciate the efforts of our allies in the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and United Farm Workers with whom we worked to advance provisions that will provide a legal and stable workforce for fruit and vegetable growers.”

    There are several key agricultural labor provisions included in the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate: Read more »

  • 08May

    USDA Announces May 31, 2013 as 2012 Census of Agriculture Due Date

    If you’re a beginning farmer or rancher right now, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants you to know that the window to respond to the 2012 Census of Agriculture is officially closing on May 31, 2013. If you need to respond to the Census, you will have received a postcard in the mail from the USDA instructing you to do so.

    How does the USDA define a farm for Census purposes? A farm is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year. The USDA has already received two million completed Census forms. The Census is conducted every five years and is “the only source of consistent and comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation.”

    See the press release for this announcement here, and also for more information about the US Census of Agriculture. Happy Census(ing)!


  • 17Apr

    Farmers: The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has just released a 6-page guide for farmers and ranchers interested in signing up for the Conservation Stewardship Program.

    Download the full guide here – and read on for more information!
    USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is currently gearing up to announce the cut-off date for farmer applications to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for enrollment in the program for 2013.  CSP is a working lands conservation program administered by NRCS and available on a nationwide basis.  CSP offers technical and financial assistance to farmers for adopting and maintaining high standards of resource conservation and environmental stewardship.  Assistance is geared to both the active management of existing conservation systems and for implementing new conservation activities on land in agricultural production.

    That means farmers and ranchers can apply for assistance to implement important practices on their land – like using cover crops to reduce soil erosion or creating habitat for bees and other beneficial insects. But you need to act soon. Read more »

  • 22Jan


    ATHENS, GA, (Jan. 15, 2013)–James E. Tillman, Sr., State Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Georgia today announced a sign-up for specific initiatives under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – applications are due by Feb. 15, 2013. Read more »

  • 07Jan

    News from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Fiscal Cliff Farm Bill Extension is a Disaster for Farmers

    For Immediate Release: January 1 Farm Bill Extension Deal is a Disaster for Farmers
    The farm bill extension deal reached in negotiations between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden is a disaster for farmers and the American people.  The nine month extension measure was attached to the bigger fiscal cliff bill and passed by the Senate early this morning and is coming up for a vote in the House later today.  Read more…

    Congress Includes Awful 2008 Farm Bill Extension in Fiscal Cliff Deal
    On New Year’s Eve, the Senate passed a simple extension of the 2008 Farm Bill through September 30, 2013, as part of a much bigger legislative package to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.  The House approved the Senate bill late on New Year’s Day and President Obama signed it into law on January 2.  Read more…

  • 04Jan

    New England Farmers Union Press Release

    Fiscal Cliff Deal A Disaster for Farmers

    New England farmers received a sour New Year’s surprise when a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill was attached and passed along with the fiscal cliff deal.  The terms of the deal originated with Minority Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who along with Vice President Biden, sidestepped months of hard work by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.

    “This extension is a disaster for New England farmers and consumers,” said Roger Noonan, President of the New England Farmers Union.  “Programs that support renewable energy, farmers markets, beginning farmers, organic and specialty crop research were all stripped of mandatory funding for 2013,” he said.

    The extension bears little resemblance to the bi-partisan bills hammered out in the agriculture committees.  The bill does not include the new Dairy Margin Insurance Program, nor does it include a Dairy Market Stabilization program that was included in both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee farm bills.  It does extend the Milk Income Loss Contract Program through September 30, 2013.  The MILC program feed cost adjustment was also extended at the behest of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

    The terms of the extension have angered many House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, including the Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).  “Rather than embrace the Senate’s bipartisan farm bill which cuts $24 billion in spending and creates certainty for our agriculture economy, Senator McConnell insisted on a partial extension that reforms nothing, provides no deficit reduction, and hurts many areas of our agriculture economy,” she said. “The Senate Agriculture Committee will once again begin work in the new year to enact a new farm bill that works for our farmers and rural communities as well as American taxpayers.”

    Noonan concluded, “We need to get to work with this new Congress to pass a five-year farm bill that provides a meaningful safety net for our dairy farmers, promotes conservation and supports the expansion of local and regional food markets. We will continue to press our farm bill priorities until we succeed,” he said.

  • 09Dec

    Due to Congressional inaction, the 2008 Farm Bill has expired without a new bill or extension to take its place. In the absence of a farm bill, numerous innovative programs that invest in sustainable agriculture systems are shut down and left without mandatory funding. This is the ninth post in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s 10-week “What’s at Stake?” series that highlights expired farm bill programs and what that means for farmers and communities throughout the country.

    What’s at Stake?: Energy Savings and Renewable Energy for Producers and Rural Businesses
    The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides guaranteed loans and matching grants to farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to increase energy efficiency or produce energy from renewable energy sources.  In addition, REAP provides grants to organizations, companies, educational institutions, and others to assist with energy audits.  Read more…

    Is a Deal Possible and What Would A Good Deal Look Like?
    Last week we tried to briefly summarize the options remaining for Congress on the farm bill.  Since then, there have been some new signs of progress on getting a full five-year bill finished this month, though also signs of continuing confusion and uncertainty.  Read more…

  • 06Nov

    Free webinar tonight - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 7 pm (CST) “Farmers as Employers: Legal Responsibilities“ http://www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar/

    Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf, and Michael Staebell of the U.S. Department of Labor

    Learn farmers’ legal responsibilities for hiring farm employees. Two farmers will share their farm labor employment scenarios and ask questions of a Labor Department director, who will also summarize Iowa farm labor laws.

    • Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf grow 8 acres of vegetables at One Step at a Time Gardens near Kanawha, Iowa. They have hired 36 employees since 2003, and also have experience offering on-farm housing to employees.
    • Michael Staebell is district director of the U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for the Des Moines District Office. He helps businesses understand and comply with labor laws.

    FREE “Farminar” from Practical Farmers of Iowa of the 2012 fall series. This web-based seminar is a 90-minute, interactive, online learning opportunity offered by Practical Farmers of Iowa.

    New farminars are presented live at 7 PM (CST) Tuesdays in November, December, January, February, and March. Check out more Faminars from Practical Farmers of Iowa.

    More than 50 previously recorded farminars are available in the archive.

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