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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | July 18, 2011

Sonja Heyck-Merlin, Steve Morrison, Ross Ludders - the full time farmers of Clovercrest

Featured Farm: Steve Morrison's Clovercrest Farm, Charleston, ME

This July our featured farm is Clovercrest Farm, Charleston, Maine. Clovercrest Farm is a blend of 125 acres of pasture and 125 acres of woodland surrounding the barn with 65 milking cows. Steve Morrison currently farms with his partner Sonja Hyeck-Merlin, his cousin Ross Ludders and his parents, Joan and Bob Morrison, as well as several seasonal and part time employees. To learn more about the operation, click here.

NODPA's 11th Annual
Field Days, September 29 & 30

Cooperstown, NY is the site of NODPA’s 11th Field Days and Annual Meeting on September 29th and 30th. This year’s program, Organic Dairy What Does the Future Hold? is a two day event that will be held at the Cooperstown Beaver Valley Cabins and Campsites, Milford, NY,, will highlight the internal and external opportunities and challenges for producers as demand for organic dairy products is on the rise and supply remains relatively static.

We will tackle the tough questions of the moment for organic dairy farm families including the role of private label milk (now 35% market share), the effect of GMO’s, the impact of the “organic circular firing squad” and how we can still enjoy organic dairying despite the increasing burden of organic regulations and excessive paperwork.

The event starts in the morning of the 29th with a tour of Siobhan Griffin’s Raindance Farm in the foothills of the Catskills where she milks 90 cows that graze on 200 acres. Participants will learn about incorporating cheese production into their dairy operation and the process of developing markets, creating products and on-farm processing of cheese.  Troy Bishopp will also be at the farm and will show producers how to 'Read the Landscape.' Following lunch and registration at noon on Thursday, we will kick off the Field Days program with a panel discussion entitled, “Facts and Fiction: Demystifying Private Label Milk” and then an educational Q&A session on producers concerns. We will host an Organic Pig Roast for our banquet and afterward will hear from Francis Thicke, an organic dairy farmer and soil scientist who has been a leader in the organic community for many years and is very innovative in his farming and marketing practices. Friday workshops will include “Natural Gas Exploration: What impact will it have on Organic Certification?” followed by “Advocacy Groups in the Organic Dairy Marketplace: Why they are important and necessary” with Liana Hoodes, Kevin Engelbert, Francis Thicke, and a representative from OTA (invited).  We have devoted the whole afternoon to a production based workshop entitled “Thinking-Man's Grazing: Learning How to Plan your Grazing for Profit, Production and Success.” This workshop offers practical, hands-on learning experience on grazing plan strategies and will include examples of farms that have applied these strategies. For more information, please go to:

Save the date and plan to attend this year’s NODPA Field Days for learning opportunities, good food and plenty of time to meet with fellow NODPA members. Have questions? Call Nora Owens, Field Days Coordinator, 413-772-0444, or email her at

In memory of Kevin Brussell

I had the pleasure of working with Kevin over a period of a few years and appreciated his friendship and support. It was horrific to hear of the circumstance of his death. To lose someone of Kevin’s skill, knowledge, humanity and just plain good sense is painful to us all. We offer our deep condolences to Juli and his family. His long time colleague, friend and former ‘boss’ Chuck Schwab, reflects on Kevin’s contribution to our community, which has been so cruelly cut short.

Feed and Pay Price Update

With a healthy demand for product, a rising retail price but a low price gap between organic and non-organic, and a high conventional price to minimize the expense of balancing surplus milk, the outlook for organic dairy processors and consumers appears to be very healthy. For producers there is more uncertainty with the rise in the cost of inputs, dramatically with corn and fuel, many producers are feeling the strain of both cash flow and ultimately net profit. With reports of corn being in short supply and selling for up to $15 per bushel in the Northeast, it’s anybody’s guess what the fall will bring, especially with a lot of poor quality first crop forage being made. As feed prices increase and work their way through the system and into new contracts for 2011 and 2012, the costs of inputs for this winter are uncertain at best. There also appears to be a difference between the two major national companies in how they respond to the needs of producers who have significant increases in feed and overhead inputs. In the Northeast, this difference has shown itself in a pay price that varies by $1.50 to $2 per hundred pounds of milk between Organic Valley and Horizon Organic. In August Organic Valley will pay a dividend equal to $0.16/cwt for all milk shipped in 2010 and increases its pay price by up to a dollar with an increase of $0.05 on butterfat, adding $0.30/cwt to its national premium, and bringing back a $.50/cwt Market Adjustment Premium (MAP). In August Horizon Organic will also raise their MAP by $1 for the 6 eastern states, but any differential in pay price will remain the same. In other parts of the country Organic Valley and Horizon are closer to each other on an average pay price. For more information, please go to:

Corn prices are rising to 2008 levels and supply is increasingly tight as the non-organic price competes directly with organic. The weather and the high price of non–organic corn is resulting in less acreage planted to organic which threatens next year’s supply. There is also an increasing risk for GMO contamination of organic corn and soybeans as market traders increasingly insist on a GMO free sample, which is sometimes outsides the ability of the grower to control with drift, contaminated seed and contamination during transport. Harvesting forage has varied and although some hay crops have been large, the quality of first cut has been quite varied. With plenty of grazing available, there will be ample opportunity for producers to plant season extension crops to balance out the higher costs of grain; however, inevitably this winter will be expensive for feed and the premiums offered by processors will not cover the extra expense. For more details please go to:

Trends in Organic Dairy

The trends in non-organic dairy are reasonably easy to predict and historically have followed a 2-3 year curve with significant high and lows in net income, with the only question being what level of extremes it would reach. Up until 2008 we could predict a fairly stable and controlled market for both the farmgate price for organic milk and the costs of inputs, which many transitioning producers saw as one of the benefits of transitioning to organic. Indeed the entry of HP Hood into the market and a significant increase in demand left producers in a position of being able to negotiate on a level playing field. Vermont’s ongoing Organic Dairy Economic Study, jointly conducted between UVM Extension and NOFA Vermont since 2005, has been able to highlight the significant difference between 2008 and 2009 in the source of income (with MILC payments being a significant reason for farms to stay in business in 2009) and the  percentage distribution of expenses. 2009 brought less money for less milk which isn’t the way to advance each year and exerts a negative effect on cash flow. Pressure on cash flow was compounded by banks and vendors tightening credit as collateral in property disappeared with the economic collapse. We need to learn how to control supply to maximize income for all levels of the supply chain so producers are not penalized for being the lowest rung on the ladder and we all know where the s*** flows! For insight into the past that can inform our future, please go to:

GMO Meeting in Boulder June 2011

On June 28th and 29th a cross-section of the organic and sustainable agriculture community, composed of farmers, consumers, industry and NGO leaders, met in Boulder and confirmed that much more work is urgently needed to educate the public about the multiple benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture. The consensus of the meeting was that, if given a clear choice, a large part of the U.S. and world population would choose to not consume GMOs, or food produced through their use. Similarly, many farmers, especially those using organic practices, do not want GMOs in their seed supply or in the feed they give their livestock.  While finding some way to work toward a moratorium on the development and planting of GMO’s is pivotal for organic, it is as important for sustainable agriculture practitioners, direct marketers and farmers that choose not use GE seeds. It’s important to educate non-organic farmers that contamination by GMO’s will affect their freedom to farm in the way they choose and that co-existence is a non starter from any practical point of view. For a more detailed article, click here.

Managing Horn, Face, And Stable Flies

This is the time of year when livestock can be tormented by fly attacks while they are out on pasture especially horn, face, stable, horse and deer flies. Each has distinctive habits, life histories, and management options. For an article that is an excerpt from the publication ‘2011 Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Guide for Organic Dairies” written by the New York State Department of Ag and Markets, click here.

To download the complete booklet and find other information on IPM for organic livestock, please go to:

Northeast Animal-Power Field Days And NOFA Summer Conference

This year the Northeast Animal-Power Field Days (NEAPFD) will partner with the NOFA Summer Conference, August 12-14, 2011, at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA. Most animal power workshops will take place at the UMass Deerfield campus (transportation provided for workshop participants). For a full description of draft animal power workshops, click here. Draft Animal Power Network (DAPNet) is the member organization responsible for NEAPFD. Members of DAPNet can take advantage of NOFA Summer Conference registration discounts. For more information on DAPNet membership, click here.

The NOFA Summer Conference will be offering 225+ workshops on organic farming, gardening and land care, draft animals in farming and forestry, homesteading, sustainability, nutrition, food politics, activism, and much, much more. For more details about the conference, available on the NODPA web site, click here.

-- Ed Maltby, Executive Director, NODPA


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