Thursday, November 08, 2012

Francisca's Farm and Food Roundup

FranciscaThe USDA is advising farmers and ranchers to keep a thorough record of losses caused by Hurricane Sandy. The Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) is available for producers who need help repairing farmland or removing debris left by the hurricane. Emergency loans are also available to eligible farmers or ranchers living in counties that are declared natural disaster areas. The USDA recommends that all producers visit their local FSA office for further assistance. The department also issued a statement reminding producers of expired disaster assistance programs, such as the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Tree Assistance Program.

Entrapment in grain bins and silos remains a leading cause of death on farms. One reason for the persisting rate of silo deaths is the huge global demand for corn. After a study revealed that nearly 20 percent of all grain bin accidents involve workers under the age of 20, the Labor Department proposed new federal regulations. Experts on farm safety explained that farmers often lack the equipment or training to properly protect their workers.

Last year, severe heat in the Southeast greatly diminished peanut production. Now, farmers are expected to harvest about 66 percent more peanuts than they did in 2011. A newly developed peanut variety that is resistant to disease played a large part in this year’s successful peanut yield. Economists are predicting a decrease in the price of peanut butter. This would be beneficial to food banks that buy the product in bulk.

Under the Autauga Quality Cotton Association, a small group of cotton farmers filed a request for arbitration to resolve their grievances with commodities giant Cargill Inc. For 45 years, Cargill had been trading in the futures market on behalf of the Autauga Quality Cotton Association. According to Autauga, Cargill was required to put on hedges in the market for the farmers to protect them from unstable cotton prices. The farmers allege that Cargill put on the hedges initially, but later removed them without permission, leading the farmers to near financial ruin.

Most farmers in India rely on community meetings for agricultural and animal husbandry information. In 2006, OneWorld South Asia established the Lifelines Agriculture project to give advice and information to small farmers in a more efficient manner. Since then, farmers have reported an average of 20 to 30 percent increase in productivity and income. Lifelines is available in 1000 villages and answers approximately 350 calls a day.

In Esperance, Australia, a group of farmers initiated a study into the effects of agricultural chemicals on farming families. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, deaths from prostate cancer are 137% higher in farmers than the rest of the population. Deaths from lymphatic cancer are 80% higher. The study, which is being conducted by the South East Premium Wheat Growers Association (SEPWA), will look for the presence of toxic chemicals in urine samples from farming families.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association issued a press release to launch the OEFFA Investment Fund. The purpose of the project is to promote sustainable agriculture in Ohio. OEFFA expects successful applications to be for business loans ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. However, the organization is willing to invest more (maximum: $250,000) or less (minimum: $2,500). OEFFA will start accepting applications on November 1, 2012 and funding decisions will be in January 2013. For more information visit OEFFA’s website or contact Carol Goland at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202 or oifinfo@oeffa.org.

In North Charleston, South Carolina, Lowcountry Local First launched an incubator program for aspiring farmers. If approved, the farmer would be allowed to lease 1-2 acres of land on the Walnut Hill Plantation and share equipment with other members of the incubator program. Lowcountry Local First also operates the New and Beginning Farmer Program and the Growing New Farmers Apprentice Program. For more information, click here.

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