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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | October 11, 2012

NODPA Field Days and Annual meeting was a resounding success with excellent presentations and many producers in attendance.

For a slideshow of some great pictures of livestock, presenters, producers (the beautiful, the handsome, the debonair and the well….. all the rest of us!) and many great scenes from the Field Days, please go to:

Field Days 2012 Slideshow

We will have a full report on the Field Days in our next NODPA News, but below are some quick impressions with some PowerPoint presentations.

Top Ten Grazing Mistakes

Sarah Flack, Dr. Cindy Daley, and Kathy Soder, gave a great and comprehensive presentation on the challenges and mistakes that can easily be made when working with pasture.
Top 10 grazing mistakes:

  1. Badly designed grazing system & infrastructure
  2. Poor grazing management
  3. Pasture plants being damaged by overgrazing
  4. Low DMI from pasture
  5. Poor plant species selection or diversity
  6. Overfeeding Protein
  7. Poor forage quality due to wrong species, low diversity or over mature plants (low digestibility)
  8. Poor soil fertility
  9. Inadequate records to keep the certifier happy
  10. Overgrazing damage!

For more of their presentation please go to a PDF version of the Powerpoint presentation.

Profitability and Price of Feed

Bob Parsons, Les Morrison and Travis Little gave a very honest, if depressing, assessment of the next few years outlook for purchased feed. Luckily in New England we have feed dealers that are committed to the future of organic livestock family farms and will do everything they can to mitigate the effects of the marketplace. For more information on profitability of organic dairy farms please go to a PDF version of their presentation.

Enhanced Soil Fertility

It is impossible to summarize the presentation on enhancing soil fertility (by Jack Lazor, Heather Darby and Cindy Daley). This presentation will need a longer article to do it justice. Stay tuned for the November issue of the NODPA Newsletter.

Washington Gridlock & Lame Duck Farm Bill

Easier to do is the summary of the Farm Bill that Annette Higby gave followed by Dave Rogers, giving the perspective of how it affects Vermont and what Vermonters can do to influence key, influential legislators. For Annette’s summary of the Farm Bill process and an update from the National Organic Coalition, please go to a PDF version of her presentation.

Diversification of Income Stream

The diversification and your farm’s future was a great session moderated by Fay Benson. Especially pleasing for me was Jeannette Fellow’s presentation as I’ve known Jeannette and Mark for over 15 years and seen firsthand how they have made a profitable organic dairy family farm through hard work. Henry Perkins was his usual ebullient self (he hasn’t quite reached the stage of a stand-up comic) and, despite his injury, he painted a forceful picture of what you can do if you sell your milking cows. Dave Johnson posed many questions about the economics of growing feed and the increasingly difficult challenge of making organic farming pay, reminding us there is no one silver bullet. For more details please go to a PDF version of the presentation.

Mandatory Organic Check-Off

The final session of the day featured the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA) proposal for an Organic Check-Off. The OTA presenter, Laura Batcha, presented the idea and process of setting up a mandated, federal organic check-off and answered questions raised by Ed Maltby’s presentation and by farmers in the audience. In brief, OTA committed to uploading onto their website all the minutes and comments from the different presentations they plan to make across the country. The presentations will be in-person at some locations, and they will also share their proposal through webinars and on their website. After they have finished their presentations, OTA will hold a referendum of all US certified operations on whether to have a federal mandated organic check-off, but there was no commitment to present both sides of the question in any material that goes out to certified operations and no real detail on that process. Laura disagreed with many that thought politically it would be possible to have only a technical correction allowing all organic operations to retain their check-off dollars. She insisted that there needed to be a pathway (which has now been renamed a technical correction) to a mandatory organic check-off included in any legislation. In response to one question asking how OTA could rebuild the trust of farmers around the process, Laura said she thought they had been transparent at every level. There were many more questions and comments and the session stretched out for 2 ½ hours and would have gone on longer if we didn’t have to end the Field Days. For more details please view a PDF of the presentation.


Feed Update

The only good news is that the feed situation hasn’t gotten any worse as everyone waits for the results of the harvest. With various and very diverse reports coming from different regions, it is almost impossible for producers that buy their feed direct from the farm to have any idea of the prices. For feed dealers who have locked in prices and contracts for months in advance, their concerns are about quality and grain farmers honoring their contracts, especially on imports. Feed dealers report that many producers on COD and account receivables have increased to levels above what most loan officers will tolerate as the average price for 16% grain increased by 38% over 2011 prices. As one presenter at the NODPA Field Days remarked – “times are tough and there are two things that are not true –everyone lives happily ever after, and a farmer being able to pay next month’s bill if he can’t pay this one.” For more information on what feed prices are doing, please click here.

ODairy Summary

ODairy is a FREE, vibrant listserv for organic dairy farmers, educators and industry representatives who actively participate with questions, advice, shared stories, and discussions of issues critical to the organic dairy industry.
Some of the topics on the list serve from the last couple of months were fly control with one producer looking for suggestions from the group for an effective fly spray. Another producer recommended keeping fly populations in check in bedded pack barns or other good breeding areas by adding humates and soft rock phosphate. Several farmers said they noticed a huge reduction in flies using fly predators. Some use a repellant spray like Ecto-Phyte or No-Fly mixed with soybean oil when the flies are at their peak. One farmer mixes vinegar, citronella, and oil -- but she has problems with the oil clogging the sprayer used for application. Another producer solved that problem by applying her repellant mixture to the cows with a paint brush. And another farmer uses a high-quality battery powered paint sprayer for his oil mixture with good success. Neem oil was also suggested. As you can see there are many ways of solving problems organically! For more on Odairy please click here.

To sign up for the ODairy listserv, go to: http://www.nodpa.com/list_serv.shtml

Kimball Brook Farm Gets a Helping Hand

Annette Higby from New England Farmers Union highlights the benefits that can be realized by participating in federal programs, especially the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) that helped Cheryl and J.D. DeVos build their processing facility to bottle organic milk. Kimball Brook Farm is a thriving, all organic dairy farm with a herd of more than 200 cows but they are rapidly becoming the exception as there is now less than 1,000 dairy farms are left in Vermont (about 20% are organic). Fuel costs are rising and dairy producers keep losing money. Young potential farmers are leaving the region. Cheryl and J.D. started Green Mountain Organic Creamery to help with these problems and they hope to expand their business so that they can buy organic milk from other dairy producers nearby, and pay them a livable milk price for their product. For more on the DeVos’s success, please click here.

-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director  

NODPA NEWS & NOTES

The Latest Feed Prices

The only good news is that the feed situation hasn’t gotten any worse as everyone waits for the results of the harvest. With various and very diverse reports coming from different regions, it is almost impossible for producers that buy their feed direct from the farm to have any idea of the prices. For more information on what feed prices are doing, please click here.

What’s Grain Got to
Do With It?

NOFA Vermont Technical Assistance Program Dairy and Livestock Farmer Discussions October 2012

As you prepare for the winter ahead, join NOFA-VT Farm Advisor Willie Gibson to explore ideas on feed sources and feeding strategies. Discussion groups will also cover long term strategies to enhance your farm’s feed energy production. For details, days, times and locations, click here.

Fearless Farm Finances
Farm Financial Management Demystified

This book combines plain old common sense with some easy to follow accounting software that appeals to both those that pour over the detail s and those that just want the figures (as quickly and easy as possible –please!). Published by Midwest Organic and Sustainable, Education Services (MOSES) this is well worth the $24.95, especially for new farmers. For more on the book review, please click here.

Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts: Contracts Demystified

Published by the Farmers Legal Action Group this book is a necessary read for all organic producers, even those that sell very little wholesale products. The book features real life examples of what can and does happen in the market place, and how to ensure that your rights are protected even when there is little room for negotiation or leverage for better conditions. For the free download and more information please go to: www.flaginc.org

Campaign to Organic: WODPA Conference in Centralia Washington

The Western Organic Dairy Producers (WODPA) hold their annual Fall Conference and Trade Show later this month on October 23 and 24. Head of the National Organic Program, Miles McEvoy, will speak on the Tuesday and there will be another meeting of the minds between OTA’s Laura Batcha and OFARM’s John Bobbe with an hour-long discussion on the proposed Organic Check-off program on the same day. Don Huber from Purdue University; Bill Marler, a prominent food borne illness lawyer; Dan Ravicher from the Public Patent Foundation; and Frank Endres from the National Farmers Organization will speak on subject from animal health to parity pricing to opposing Monsanto.

If you think you can stand more of Tony Azevedo’s zany sense of humor and want to visit with many excellent organic producers and resource professionals, please go to www.wodpa.org or email sinko@dishmail.net

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