The West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design was endowed $100,000 by the Farm Credit of the Virginias.
Calling it “an investment in the future of agriculture,” the gift will create the Farm Credit Agriculture Graduate Student Fund for students in agriculture-related master’s and doctoral programs in the Davis College. It will provide research seed money, defray the costs of conference and research travel, support study abroad opportunities and enable other activities that enhance graduate education in agriculture at WVU.
“Farm Credit of the Virginias is excited to support the Davis College and make this investment in the future leaders of agriculture,” said David Lawrence, CEO of the company. “We view this as a way of paying forward, supporting the next generation of great thinkers in our industry.”
Daniel Robison, dean of the Davis College, added, “Graduate students are the research engine at WVU, and for the Davis College to really do its part innovating in science, policy and technology we’ve got to have ways to enable their work.
“This key and generous support from Farm Credit of the Virginias does exactly that,” Robison said. “David Lawrence and his forward-looking team at Farm Credit have made this terrific investment here, and it will make a real difference in what our students can do, what their faculty advisers can encourage them to accomplish, and how we contribute towards the future of agriculture and rural communities.”
Farm Credit of the Virginias, ACA is part of a nationwide network of cooperative lending institutions that provides financing for: farm and country home loans, land purchase, home construction and improvements, buildings, machinery, livestock, equipment, operating expenses and lines of credit.
Farm Credit was created in 1916 and is now the largest single provider of agricultural credit in the United States. Farm Credit of the Virginias provides more than $1.5 billion in financing to rural homeowners, farmers and landowners in 96 counties in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
Farm Credit’s donation was made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $750 million comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2015.
By Karen Macdonald
For an industry that relies on the land for its continued prosperity, it’s no surprise that many of America’s farmers and ranchers are focused on sustainability. These dedicated producers understand that to continue to grow abundant crops and pasture for livestock, the land must be carefully shepherded to reduce erosion and maintain nutrients, and water and energy resources must be conserved.
- An increasing number of farmers like Everette Medlin are using no-till processes on their fields: rather than churning up the soil to remove weeds and crop residue left after harvest, the soil is left intact and the next crop is planted within the remains of the old. This approach reduces both soil erosion and water usage, and increases the organic matter and natural nutrients in the soil.
- Planting cover crops on fields that have been harvested is a technique growing in popularity. The cover crops help hold soil in place, reducing erosion, and when turned into the soil add valuable nutrients. Annie and Mike Dee use cover crops extensively, as well as no-till techniques.
- Brian and Kelli Eglinger manage their diversified poultry and cattle operation with a close eye on water quality, creating and managing a comprehensive Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) plan with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and use rotational grazing, which reduces erosion, enhances runoff control, improves rainfall infiltration as well as improving wildlife habitat and animal health.
- Farming can be an energy-intensive enterprise, whether it’s powering livestock barns or processing crops. Matt and Cindy Rhodes have installed a solar array to power their cranberry processing operation; Russ Winterhof uses wind energy to power his poultry houses; Gills Onions invested in an Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS) that converts onion waste into ultra-clean energy that powers the processing plant.
Feeding America and the world depends on our natural resources, and it’s through the dedication of these and thousands of other farmers and ranchers that those resources are being conserved for future generations.
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!