Green Wind Farm, Fairfield, VT
Green Wind Farm, Fairfield, Vermont is located 50 miles northeast of Fairfield, VT and is owned and operated by Julie Wolcott and Steve MacCausland. It is a farm with a total of 300 acres which produces 6,000 small square bales of hay, 2,000 gallons of Maple Syrup, and has a Somatic Cell Count of 52,000. They started shipping to Stonyfield Farm on January 22, 2017. To read the full article, please go to:
CowSignals: A Successful Approach
to Putting the Focus on Barn Design and Management on the Cow
One of the best pieces of advice I had from an old Yorkshire, England farmer when I was starting out in farming 47 years ago, was “It is the eye of the farmer that fattens the beast.” With the usual self-righteousness of youth, I dismissed that advice in favor of the benefits of free stall farms with electronic feeders and zero-grazing of grass to save the pasture from being poached. In the age of robotic milking, when we have a full download of cow information on our cell phones and cow pedometers that will tell us how far our cows have travelled in a day, the low stress management system known as CowSignals reintroduces the skills of observation and analysis of the dairy herd by the farmer. These skills were once inherited and are now taught with a more formal approach under the CowSignals program. Jack Rodenburg will be the keynote speaker at the 17th Annual NODPA Field Days where he will lead a lively, hands-on session on CowSignals training. For more details on the program please read the full article by Jack Rodenburg and Joep Driessen at:
Is my milk organic?
The egregious abuses of the organic certification process, with the access to pasture regulation and the importation of organic grain, were again part of an expose by the national media. While the Organic Trade Association, the USDA, and multinational conglomerates have been pushing equivalence agreements and recognition of government accreditation with an increasing number of individual countries and the European Union, they have failed to invest in systems to protect the integrity of the organic seal. Their boasts about the growth of organic sales from $13 billion in 2005 to $43 billion in 2015, which includes $1.2 billion in imports, fail to take into account the inadequate increase in support staff to maintain the integrity of the seal. There are only ten employees within the NOP Compliance & Enforcement Division ensuring compliance from eighty-two certifiers, 61,682 certified entities and $43 billion dollars in organic sales. The NOP budget has been level funded since 2014 at $9 million, which is 0.021% of organic sales. Yet they are still expanding international equivalency agreements. This rookie business mistake, of outgrowing your support infrastructure, has been instrumental in undermining the US organic producers market and threatens the long-term consumer belief in the organic seal.
If NOP is not policing organic integrity, then who will? It has become increasingly obvious that the NOP is not up to the job of policing certifiers nationally and internationally, as demonstrated by these egregious mistakes made repeatedly by the State of Colorado and importers. Do state certifiers have the capacity and will to enforce standards in the face of political and economic pressure? Experience shows that is not the case. NOP has repeatedly ignored fully implementing continuous oversight of their accreditation activities. The trade organizations do not want the job of policing their members. They haven’t come out and condemned those members that obviously are breaking the rules.
The certifier is the first line of defense but their capacity and interpretation of regulations vary dramatically in some cases. Following NOP approval, some certifiers allow porches for poultry; others don’t. Some certifiers allow hydroponics; others don’t. Certifiers interpret the Origin of Livestock very differently which allows a continuous transition in the expansion of organic dairy herds. Do we need a scorecard of certifiers that the consumer can check on and a requirement that the name of the certifier is on the label? There needs to be a change in NOP priorities in order for them to do the accreditation work. If they don’t, the public and producers will move onto other certifications.
The words of NODPA President and organic dairy farmer in “I am an organic dairy farmer and I want to tell my story,’ very clearly tells the consumer how they can trust organic and where producers stand.
Anatomy of a Rare, or perhaps not so Rare, Drought in New York
It is clear from the results of this informal Extension survey that NY farmers were seriously affected by the short-term drought that occurred in the summer of 2016. The severely hot, dry, sunny weather stressed many crops and led to extensive crop yield loss due to farmers’ lack of irrigation equipment, water, and time. Most of the farmers surveyed said they would like better seasonal weather forecasting so they could begin taking steps earlier in the season to prepare for drought. Many farmers indicated that they are highly motivated to expand irrigation capacity, but finding the capital to do this is a major constraint.
Farmer adaptation could be facilitated by policies that reduced the investment risk for farmers, such as low-cost loans. Since climate projections indicate this type of drought will likely occur more frequently in the Northeast in the future, it is important to understand how famers can adapt and better prepare for future drought risk, as well as to understand what organizations such as Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension can do to provide the help farmers need to sustain both farm productivity and water resources across NY State. Dr. David Wolfe, co-author of this report, will focus on how farmers can be better prepared as climate changes when he speaks at the 17th Annual NODPA Field Days. To read the full report, please go to:
Organic Farmers, Consumers Call for USDA to Reject Organic Checkoff with comments to USDA
The No Organic Checkoff Coalition submitted to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA) a list of 1,888 signatories to a petition urging the agency to reject a proposal to create a new “research and promotion” program, also called an organic checkoff program. The Coalition also submitted a letter opposing the checkoff signed by more than 60 organic organizations asking for the USDA to end the checkoff proposal. Two Coalition partners submitted petitions with a total of 19,592 signatures to stop the checkoff. The coalition represents 31 organizations and more than 6,000 organic farmers from the Western, Midwestern, and Eastern United States.
NODPA submitted over 17 pages of comments in opposition to the proposed organic checkoff under the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996 (the Act) and many other organizations submitted detailed comments against the proposed rule. Over 2000 individuals have written unique individualized letters to the USDA documenting why they oppose the checkoff.
All organic producers need to recognize that as soon as an organic checkoff is established, we will lose the ability to be exempt from paying into checkoffs. The choice would be either paying into an organic checkoff or a conventional one.
The timeline for any decision by USDA on what happens with the organic checkoff is unpredictable. The only prediction is that a decision to move forward or not will take the USDA many months, perhaps over a year to complete the process. We will keep everyone updated on the process and subsequent actions and in the interim, folks can find more information at www.noorganiccheckoff.com.