Thursday, August 30, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

Francisca border=According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this year’s net farm income will reach $122.2 billion. Payouts from the federal crop insurance program will compensate for destroyed crops, for those who have insurance. Farms that escaped the drought’s clutches will earn 39 percent more on products like corn and soybean, whose prices have risen with the drop in production. Grain producers have already increased their prices. Economists are set to mark 2012 as the most profitable year for (certain) farmers.

Meanwhile, small farmers are sending in pictures to media outlets to show the drought’s ripple effect on crops and livestock.

Duke Farms and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) are launching an incubator farm program in 2013. NOFA-NJ understands that beginning farmers might not have access to farmland, equipment or training. The incubator program will place new farmers on 140 acres of Duke Farms’ land and provide education on farming techniques. For applications and more information on the program, visit the NOFA-NJ website at www.nofanj.org.

Recently, the USDA announced that it would be accepting applications for its Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG). The USDA has allotted $14 million for the VAPG awards. Funding is used to help producers develop products that add value to the agriculture community. Priority may be given to beginning farmers or ranchers; socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers; family farmers and many more. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has published the Farmers’ Guide to Value-Added Producer Grant Funding, which will include program rules and hints for applicants. The guide can be downloaded for free. Applications for the VAPG awards are due on October 15.

In La Encanada, Peru, peasant farmers are protesting against the $5 billion Conga project. The project would destroy four mountain lakes located in Peru’s highlands to build an open-pit gold mine. Farmers depend on the lakes to grow crops and nourish their animals. Leaders of the Conga project, including U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co., have plans to build reservoirs to replace the lakes. Even so, 78 percent of the highland’s residents are opposed to the project while only 15 percent approve.

The USDA has extended emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) lands. Famers and Ranchers can now remain on CRP lands until November 30th, at no additional rental cost. Producers must file for extension with their local Farm Service Agency office.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been working to improve procedures and lessen requirements for disaster aid. Late last week, the Secretary announced plans to modify emergency loans, so that livestock producers can apply earlier in the season. The USDA is also determined to file provisions with the federal crop insurance program to allow haying or grazing of cover crops.

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