Port Matilda, PA (Associate Press, May 14, 2013): The temporary dip in temperatures gave farmers in Pennsylvania a scare during a spring that experts have otherwise described as pleasantly devoid of big problems. Most farmers aren't fans of deviations from the norm. Schedules are typically set by following patterns that follow long-term trends.
"Nothing you can do about it," Bill Lamont, a professor of vegetable crops at Penn State, said with a faint chuckle during a phone interview. "I can't (raise) the temperature."
On Monday, the National Weather Service issued freeze warnings or frost advisories for much of the state overnight. On Tuesday morning, Lamont set out to the school's horticulture farm in Rock Springs, outside State College, to check on the fledgling crops. The thermometer read 27 degrees. He found apple trees were "touched up a little bit," which would lead to a little thinning. Some leaves on grape plants curled and may have been injured.
Lamont took part in a conference call later Tuesday with extension agents around the state who reiterated similar findings: Any damage appeared to be minor. There were strawberry growers who irrigated for frost protection, while some farmers covered corn.
Kansas City (Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, May 9, 2013): Since 2009, wealth in the U.S. farm sector has surged along with booming farmland values. In the latest issue of the Main Street Economist, Omaha Branch Executive Jason Henderson and Nathan Kauffman, economist, explore the historical wealth effect in agriculture and what it could mean for farm debt and leverage if farm incomes fall dramatically.
Similar to nonfarm households, farm enterprises historically have used wealth to support consumption and investments when income fades. During years of low income, instead of allowing investments to fall with profits, farmers tap their existing wealth to finance and maintain their capital investments near previous levels.
Historically, the sharp accumulation of debt has preceded financial crises. Henderson and Kauffman point to the 1970s as the clearest example of the wealth effect in U.S. agriculture. A surge in U.S. exports in 1972 led to a doubling of U.S. crop prices and a spike in farm profits. Although farm profits quickly retreated, farmers accelerated their investments, and capital spending did not peak until 1979.
Lancaster (Country Folks, May 10, 2013): "Making silage is like making wine. An excellent winemaker cannot make fine wine from bad grapes. And a bad winemaker will certainly make bad wine from good grapes."
That was the opening gambit and theme setter from presenter Robert Fry, DVM, at a breakout session at Pennsylvania's 2013 Dairy Summit. After graduating from the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine in 1977, Fry began a bovine veterinary practice on the Delmarva Peninsula. His career interest has always centered on production and health issues of dairy cows. In 1994, after years of working in traditional dairy operations, he was convinced that a healthy alternative was to manage and feed cows with the principles of Managed Intensive Grazing. To that extent Fry has become a partner in a grazing, seasonal breeding Jersey herd in Kennedyville, MD. He continues to practice veterinary medicine on dairy herds in that area and provides consulting services to producers in the Northeast U.S.
"If you can feed Jersey cows on grass, and if you can also feed Jersey cows in confinement, feeding Holstein cows becomes quite a bit simpler." Citing one particular slide in his presentation, he added that the "Jersey cow can work well in a Holstein herd, and actually props up the Holsteins."
Fry suggests that if you want to end up with good silage, you've got to start with haylage that is made rapidly, cut and harvested within a 24 to 36 hour period at the correct moisture. Bring it in from the fields fast, whether you are going into upright silos or trench silos. In trench silos, be sure to get it packed.
Lancaster (Country Folks, May 3, 2013): Half the battle of putting on a successful trade show often depends upon where it is held. For the 2013 Dairy Calf and Heifer Conference, the Lancaster Convention Center in Lancaster, PA proved to be ideal. In recent years has the former Watt & Shand department store been transformed into a center that is state-of-the-art in architectural splendor, a complex that retains the old exterior of the former landmark store, with an imaginative interior full of color, comfort, and comportment.
It was in a half-length football field general session ballroom where Conference Chair Lane Sollenberger explained DCHA's goals for this year. "To get people to know who we are," he said. "I think there's a perception that we are strictly an organization catering to contract heifer raisers. We are not! We realize that there are far more dairy farms raising heifers than there are contracted. We also want people to be a part of our Gold Standards. (Those are reachable targets to be successful in this business.)"
"If you want to be in this business [agriculture], you've got to understand the numbers!" So says numbers guru Gary Sipiorski, the keynote speaker at the opening general session. Sipiorski is dairy development manager for Vita Plus Corporation. "You've got to know your balance sheet, you've got to know your cash flow, and you've got to know your cost of production. It isn't going to work if you don't know that stuff." Citing the incident of a congressman visiting a dairy farm, this congressman supposedly said, "I can't believe how hard you folks work. Do you really do this five days a week?"
Washington, DC (DTN, May 6, 2013): Backlash from livestock groups and fellow senators has likely prompted Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to put the egg bill back in the carton.
The egg bill is language struck from an agreement reached by the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States that would establish a national standard for confinement of egg-laying hens. The bill would supersede state standards for cages, some of which have come from HSUS-led voter initiatives. Stabenow is a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
But the egg bill has had critics since UEP and HSUS struck their agreement in 2011. Other livestock and poultry groups have been appalled at the idea of Congress and the federal government implementing a national standard for livestock or poultry.
Lancaster (Lancaster Farming, May 5, 2013): Trucks, trains and planes have made it possible for food items from everywhere on Earth to show up in grocery stores in Lancaster County.
That expansive food-distribution network has many benefits, but it has largely eliminated the direct connection between farmers and consumers. But now a grassroots movement called Community Supported Agriculture is re-establishing that tie.
Under the CSA model, consumers purchase shares of a farm's crops and, in some CSAs, other food products. Then, every week during the growing season, they come to the farm, meet the people who are growing their food and pick up their shares.
At least 16 farms in Lancaster County sell their produce the CSA way. While that's a tiny fraction of the 5,000 farms in the county, it's double the number of CSA farms here five years ago. "We want our members to feel like our farm is their farm," said Andrew Buckwalter of Buckhill Farms outside Lititz.
"We work very hard to build a community around our farm. Many of our members make their pickup a family outing.