One of the best parts about working with the Knowledge Center is having opportunities to learn about new and exciting ventures in agriculture. The industry that we work in and love so much is filled with new ideas, innovations and advancements to meet the demands of a growing population. In order to meet these challenges, farmers and communities all across the nation are stepping up in brand new ways. I am amazed at the creativity, resilience and diligence I see each day in their efforts of producing and marketing a wholesome and safe food supply.
This week I got to see this creativity and innovation first hand at the first annual Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit in Lynchburg, VA. This Summit brought many valuable stakeholders together to look at ways of better incorporating locally grown foods into urban areas. I love seeing collaboration at these types of events. It was a great mix of state and local agencies, commodity groups, extension, food banks, local food systems, Virginia Farm Bureau and Farm Credit. Even Virginia’s First lady Dorothy McAuliffe addressed the audience and shared her passion for local foods and healthy eating.
So what does urban agriculture look like? Well, it has lots of dimensions actually. We learned about how some towns and cities are placing abandoned lots, parks and plots of land into producing food. We saw how some communities have made an investment into roof top farming, where food is being grown on the tops of buildings. We saw pictures of citizens joining together for days of gleaning, where left over foods in fields could still be harvested and delivered to local food banks to feed the needy. As VDACS Commissioner, I was fortunate to participate in this event with my fellow employees the last two years. What a wonderful experience to work the fields picking fruits and vegetables for such a great cause. After all, everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy fresh foods from the fields. We learned of innovative ways farmers’ markets are able to succeed and expand through special grants and partnerships. And finally, we witnessed firsthand the amazing success story of “Lynchburg Grows.”
Lynchburg Grows was formed as a not-for-profit corporation in 2003 to help all disadvantaged persons enjoy the healthy benefits of gardening and have access to such spaces. Since then it has responded to critical community issues by creating nutrition and food systems programming for elementary school children, implemented a vocational training program for disabled and low-income individuals, and organized workshops for anyone interested in increasing their gardening efforts. Lynchburg Grows currently has programs at seven community centers, five targeted elementary schools, six local gardening efforts, and a summer camp.
Since 2004, more than 2,300 community volunteers have contributed over 25,000 hours to clear out dead rose plants and install growing systems for vegetables in 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. Over 17,000 lbs. of fresh vegetables produce(d?) have been donated to a local food pantry and an equal amount sold to restaurants and sold at the local farmers market by disabled volunteers. This project has become a model for what a community can do to both produce food and assist with those in need. It was an honor to learn more about this project. If you would like to learn more, you can visit www.lynchburggrows.org
As the local foods movement continues to grow in popularity, our mission here at the Knowledge Center is to help provide information and resources to those seeking answers. Attending events like this helps us to broaden our network of contacts and better serve those seeking knowledge. As more and more consumers desire locally grown foods, we stand ready to help in any way possible. Of course we remain passionate about supporting our more traditional producers as well, but how exciting to expand the tent and see new people enter into this dynamic industry. Our hope is that one day every community can have a successful food production and delivery system in place that truly connects our farms to our plates.
Farm Credit of the Virginias, a customer-owned financial cooperative, announced Monday that they are paying just over $21 million in cash to their customers in the form of a patronage dividend.
As a cooperative, Farm Credit distributes a portion of their profits to their customers. Due to record earnings for 2013, the Board of Directors declared that in addition to the regular patronage dividend, which typically represents 12 percent of the amount of interest paid on loans in a given year, a second “special” patronage dividend would also be paid totaling another 12 percent, bringing the total patronage dividend to just over $21 million. The regular patronage dividend will be paid in cash on April 4, 2014. The “special” patronage dividend will be paid in cash on June 2, 2014.
“We are proud to be one of the few financial institutions that directly rewards our customer-owners for their loyalty and thank them for the business in a very tangible way. The patronage dividend program also helps reduce our customers’ effective cost of borrowing and returns money directly to the communities we serve. Our Board of Directors understand the critical role Farm Credit plays in sustaining our agricultural industry and our rural communities,” remarked Dave Lawrence, CEO of Farm Credit of the Virginias. Since 2001, Farm Credit of the Virginias has paid over $161 million in patronage dividends to its customer-owners.
Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and agribusinesses that borrow from them. Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending and expert financial services. For more information, visit www.farmcreditofvirginias.com.
By Karen Macdonald
Gloria succeeded both in managing a successful dairy operation and in raising her six children. Along the way, she also took on leadership roles in government, serving in the Vermont House of Representatives, and in education, serving as a Trustee of the University of Vermont.
Her biggest interest was in agriculture, though, and she has been recognized within the dairy industry and the Farm Credit System. From 1976 to 1983 Gloria served on the board of one of the associations that preceded Yankee Farm Credit, and from 1983 to 1987 she was the first and only female director of the Springfield Farm Credit Banks.
She also served as a director of the New England Dairy and Food Council, the Champlain Valley Milk Producers Cooperative and the Milk Promotion Services Council. She was a chairperson of the Vermont Governor’s Agricultural Advisory Board, and a trustee and director of the Eastern States Exposition. Gloria was honored at the World Dairy Expo and awarded National Dairy Woman of the Year in 1983. She was inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2003.
Gloria Conant died in March of 2012, leaving a legacy as a business woman and agricultural professional. At the time of her death, Vermont Agriculture Commissioner Chuck Ross Jr. said in a Burlington Free Press.com article, “Gloria Conant exemplified what is best about Vermont and our agricultural community starting with her beautiful farm on the banks of the Winooski in Richmond to her long-standing commitment to public service.”
I love this time of the year. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are getting warmer and you can tell that the highly anticipated spring season has finally arrived. Another one of my favorite spring rituals is the celebration of Virginia Agriculture and Agriculture Literacy Week. This year these two events are both taking place March 23-29. Whether your interest in agriculture is from the viewpoint of the producer or the end consumer, it is a great time to pause and recognize the importance of our most basic and vital industry.
I recently saw a t-shirt that said without agriculture, we would all be naked and hungry. That is probably the most basic assessment of what our world would be without the men and women working hard each day to provide us with our needs. Agriculture is the driving force of Virginia’s economy generating over $52 billion in economic activity. Over 350,000 citizens make a living working in agriculture across 46,000 farms. It also has a tremendous impact internationally as well, generating over $2.8 billion in agricultural exports in 2013.
The beauty of today’s agricultural industry is the diversity of our farmers and the products that are produced. With over 300 million U.S. citizens and over seven billion people worldwide, needless to say there are numerous preferences and demands for food. That diversity is celebrated throughout Virginia with products ranging from poultry, beef and swine to corn, cotton and tobacco. Virginia is also known for apples, peanuts, horticulture and some of the country’s most beautiful wineries.
As the local foods movement has expanded in the last decade or so, our innovative and creative producers have risen to meet these new demands. Virginia is a leading state in the number of farmers’ markets, CSA’s, roadside stands and food aggregator hubs. Our producers have become very innovative in producing products that are labeled organic, natural, and whole to meet those specific desires of certain consumers. Every individual has a preference, and our agricultural industry has been amazing at rising up to meet these growing challenges.
My hope is that this week and every week, we will all stop and take a few moments to thank those dedicated men and women who provide us with so much. Even though each farmer is a little different, he or she each plays a valuable role. Some farm full time and some farm as a hobby. Some use highly sophisticated technology and equipment while others do it all by hand. Some are fifth generation farmers like me and some are just getting started from scratch. Some raise bulk commodities while others market directly to the end consumer. This diversity of products and methods makes Virginia agriculture a model for the nation.
So as you sit down to dinner this week, please take a moment to stop and appreciate the hands that worked so hard to produce the food you are enjoying. If you have questions or would like more information about today’s agricultural industry, I hope you will spend some time visiting www.farmcreditknowledgecenter.com. It is my hope that this site can be a beneficial resource in helping to answer the questions about this vital industry. Enjoy the spring season and thanks again to everyone working for the success of our diverse agricultural industry.
Matt Lohr, Director
By Matt Ritenour
With the March 15 crop insurance deadline quickly approaching for corn and soybeans, there is a common question on many farmers’ minds: how will the new Farm Bill affect my crop insurance coverage, and what will that mean for my out-of-pocket costs?
The good news is that the previous crop insurance subsidy levels and products are still in place so that producers don’t have to learn about new products and possibly make rash decisions before this week’s deadline. Longer term, the Farm Bill will result in numerous innovative features for the crop insurance program.
What Producers Should Look at for the 2014 Crop Year
Because changes to crop insurance options won’t be in place until next year, for now, producers need to make sure they have the right coverage in place for 2014. The spring prices for corn and soybeans are down considerably from 2013 and that has lowered crop insurance guarantees. With lower prices and tight margins, it is critical that producers have ample coverage in place in case of natural disasters or market fluctuations.
Farm Credit is committed to helping farmers meet their business goals, and risk management is one step in the process. Producers with risk management questions can reach out to their local Farm Credit Association, which can put you in touch with a crop insurance agent who can explain your coverage options. Remember that the Spring deadline for crop insurance policies is March 15 so coverage is in place before the first seed is planted – if you haven’t already done so, talk to your crop insurance agent this week.
Probable New Crop Insurance Features for 2015
Looking forward to next year, farmers will see some new crop insurance options thanks to the recently passed Farm Bill, for which specific rules are being written to fully implement the Bill’s legislative intent. Luckily, this means that farmers will have plenty of time to study their options before making a decision on 2015 coverage.
Following are just a few of the expected crop insurance changes, including features that will allow farmers to better shape their risk management protection to fit the needs of their individual operations.
- The new Farm Bill may allow producers to exclude any year from their insurable production (their Actual Production History or APH) if the county’s yield for the crop in that year is at least 50 percent below the previous 10-year average yield.
- New and beginning famers may also be eligible for a premium reduction and adjustment to production histories if natural disasters have depressed the current Actual Production History yields.
- Whole farm insurance will be offered, which might provide better risk management solutions for smaller more diversified operations.
- The Enterprise Unit discount–which was previously a pilot program–will be made permanent. Separate enterprise units will also be available for irrigated and non-irrigated crops.
- An innovative provision will also allow USDA compliant organic crops to reflect actual retail or wholesale prices.
- Crops grown for bioenergy, organic production, alfalfa and specialty crops will also see expanded risk management options.
- Additional conservation program compliance must also be met in some areas for producers to receive full subsidy support.
Crop insurance is an important risk management tool (learn more about crop insurance basics). Farm Credit is available to discuss your risk management options and to help you find a crop insurance agent. Contact your local Farm Credit Association to get started.
Have a safe and productive growing season!
THE BUSINESS OF AGRICULTURE: CROP INSURANCE BASICS
By Rachel Meyer
Crop insurance is a critical component of agriculture today, impacting not only farmers who directly participate in the program, but also local communities, businesses and lenders. Many Farm Credit System Associations offer crop insurance, and according to National Crop Insurance Services, “More than 86% of insurable farmland in the United States is now protected through the Federal Crop Insurance Program.”
The Federal Crop Insurance Program
The Federal Crop Insurance Program offers risk management tools to America’s agricultural producers. Today, moe than 100 commodities can be insured to protect against a multitude of perils like disease, catastrophic weather or other crop or livestock issues. With the advancement of the program, producers have many choices when it comes to purchasing insurance depending on their operation’s needs.
Federal crop insurance is administered by Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs). These AIPs contract directly with licensed agents, who work directly with the farmers to offer the products and provide the policy servicing, including the annual reporting of acres and production. Claims are submitted by the agents, but they are worked exclusively by the AIP’s adjuster team.
The Importance of the Sales Closing Date
The Sales Closing Date (SCD) is the final date that a crop insurance application can be filed, and the last date that an insured can make coverage changes to an existing policy, including adding new crops or counties. Typically, this date falls in advance of planting the crop, so that decisions are made for the year before the first seeds ever go into the ground. You can find the SCD in the Special Provisions of Insurance in your policy for each crop.
March 15th Sales Closing Deadline – What You Need to Know
March 15 is the next SCD for a large portion of the U.S., so producers should be talking with their agents now about their 2014 coverage. You should never let an SCD pass without discussing all portions of your application with your agent. The smallest detail, such as a change in the marital status of a landlord, can have detrimental impacts on coverage at claims time if not corrected.
This year also marks the introduction of many new private product offerings. These products range in type and structure depending on the insurance provider, so it is crucial to discuss these options with your agent before the SCD.
Critical policy considerations to discuss with your agent at each SCD:
- Is the “Named Insured” on the policy correct?
- For the “Named Insured” on the policy, is the entity correctly identified?
- Is your previous coverage level adequate today with lower prices, and in some situations, lower APHs?
- Is the state and county correct for all crops insured under the policy?
- Is the Tax ID number correct for the insured entity?
- Has there been a change in marital status for the insured? Any landlords?
- Are all persons with a Substantial Beneficial Interest (>10%) in the insured entity listed on the policy? Does someone need to be added/deleted?
- Is the spelling of all names correct for insureds, spouse & SBIs?
- Is all contact information for the insured still correct? (phone, address)
- Have you added any land since last year? Any new counties? New crops?
- Are you farming any land that came out of CRP recently? Will you farm some that is about to be released?
- Are you breaking any land out of native pasture, or do you have land that has not been farmed in one of the last three years?
Regardless of your experience with crop insurance, from seasoned user to first time farmer, talk to your agent before the March 15 deadline. It could make a major difference if you do suffer a significant loss.
Matthew, tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Rural Retreat, Va., where I still
live today with my wife and family. After high
school I attended college and graduated from
Virginia Tech in 2010 with my B.S. in Dairy
Science. During sophomore year in college, I
started investing in my own cow-calf operation.
For many generations my family has been
involved in farming. So, I have been doing
this all of my life.
What kind of operations are you
I was born and raised on a dairy farm which
was originally started by my granddad who
is now in his 80s. We are currently milking
160 dairy cows. The dairy has always been
such a big part of my life, but I decided to
branch out into the beef industry as well. I
also grow a lot of grain crops. I think that
diversification is an important aspect when
you are looking to grow.
How did you get started in the
My sophomore year at Virginia Tech I bought
eight bred Angus heifers. Since then I have
been buying and keeping replacement heifers
in order to grow my herd. This operation has
grown quite a bit since I first started only a
few years ago. This spring I am looking to
calve 100 commercial and registered Angus.
What kind of crops do you plant?
We farm more than 1,000 acres. It could be
fenced in and we could increase the number
of head we have, but instead we plant a variety
of grains. We typically plant 140 acres of grain
wheat, 80 acres of grain corn, and 30 acres of
barley. In addition to that, we plant 10 varieties
of non-GMO corn.
Who do you sell your crops to?
We sell a lot of wheat to farmers to use as a
cover crop. That isn’t something we advertise,
we simply rely on word of mouth. We also
sell our wheat to local mills. Manell Milling in Roanoke, Va., takes our wheat and turns
it into flour. The corn we grow is also sold to
local mills and distilleries.
How do you market the crops to the
mills and distilleries?
We get a head start on this process before we
even begin to plant. I will go to the mills and
distilleries and find out how many acres of
each grain they want and plant accordingly.
That eliminates me from planting too much of
certain crops and then having to store them.
The barley, rye and corn we are growing will
be advertised for human consumption and
for the production of corn liquor within the
next year or so.
What kind of support team do you
have on the farm?
My granddad and my brother help out a lot.
They both love farming and its great having
them here to help support me and to support
the growth of the family farm from generation
How has Farm Credit helped you?
Farm Credit didn’t hesitate to help me get
started with my initial operating loan. I didn’t
have a W-2 or capital to show, but they still
helped with getting me my first loan. If it
wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been able to
purchase the fertilizer I needed for my first
grain crop. As the farm continues to grow so
do my operating costs, but they continue to
help finance me. They even helped with the
purchase of my first house. And now I am
looking to purchase an adjacent piece of land
and I have been seeking assistance with that
from my loan officer.
What have been your biggest obstacles?
There are always obstacles when it comes to
farming. Having high calf mortality rates is a
big obstacle when there is inclement weather.
Selling grain is tough because when you plant
them they could be high, but when you go to
harvest the prices could have dropped. Dealing
with distilleries and mills keeps that from
happening since we make the deals prior to
planting. The price is negotiated with the cost
of planting in mind whether or not the price
increases or drops.
What have been your greatest
Increasing my yields per acre on the crop side
of my operation is a pretty big accomplishment.
That is what I shoot for. It lets me know that I
am doing it right and that I can keep moving
forward. Having increased weaning weights
every year is also a big accomplishment. It
means more money in my pocket and more
money that I can put back into the farm.
What would you say have been your
keys to success?
My granddad is a walking history book. I have
learned and I continue to learn so much from
him. I think looking to your elders for answers
to questions is sometimes the best place to get
information especially when they’ve had the
experience of being in the same situation you
are in now. Talking to experienced people in
your field is very beneficial and has helped
me a great deal. For instance, I never hesitate
going to my local Southern States when I have
questions that need answered. Hard work
and consistency are a must. The people you
are selling your product to want something
consistent especially when you are talking
about human consumption. This is a great way
to build your reputation, but if it’s not taken
seriously it can also ruin your reputation.
By: Jenna Mullins