I want to start this
month’s article by thanking all of you who have called, e-mailed
or stopped me at a meeting to congratulate me on my appointment
to the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board). It is quite an honor
to serve and represent all of you as one of the designated “farmer”
board members. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously
and hope that I can live up to.
We had our first meeting of 2006 in State College, Pennsylvania
in mid-April. I thought since many of you were not able to attend
that meeting I’d give you my observations as a rookie attendee
and board member. The official transcript of the meeting has just
been posted on the USDA’s National Organic Program’s
web site (www.ams.usda.gov/nosb/transcripts/transcripts.html)
You will find 1,405 pages of transcripts for the NOSB-sponsored
dairy symposium and the formal meeting, held April 18-20.
I found my first meeting to be fascinating and informative from
the first phase of the orientation to the last public comment. Having
so many interested farmers take the time out of their busy schedules
to sit all day (and in some cases well into the evening) to have
their five minutes in front of the board to express their concerns
was rewarding to see. The passion for “organic” is alive
and well in the hearts and minds of farmers and consumers. That
goes for the board members as well. And it really came out at the
As part of the national meetings there was a pasture symposium
to educate the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) staff
and the NOSB on the role pasture plays in an organic livestock system.
This symposium was held in response to an urging form the organic
community to have the NOP amend the regulations concerning pasture
management for dairy and other ruminant livestock. The USDA recognized
the need for stakeholders in the organic community to have an opportunity
to have their positions heard and give input to the NOP. There is
now an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) out there. The
next step is a 60-day comment period which we are in now. Current
comments can also be viewed on the USDA’s NOP web site.
You may have noticed that being involved with the NOSB for only
5 months has already made me part of the government’s alphabet
soup crowd. USDA, NOP, NOSB, ANPR, etc etc. I’ll do my best
to keep my head where it needs to be – on the issues of keeping
organic… well… organic. While most of us know the intended
farming approach of the federal rule, some folks want to change
it to suit their own production system rather than change their
system to comply with the rule or its intention.
It will be a never-ending struggle to keep the door open for more
folks to come into the organic marketplace while keeping the standards
high enough so organic holds its trusted position with the consumers
who value our products.
No-Till Plus drawings:
This month we are also finally—and I do mean finally (thanks
for bearing with us)—posting the technical drawings for our
cover crop roller. It’s been a long, difficult route to get
them to you but here they are now available online for downloading.
Click here to
go to this month's no-till update (including the roller plans).
Many of you have been asking for these drawings and I’ve
been promising them to you for months. With this set of drawings—
produced in Auto-Cad but now in PDF format for easy access—-
you should be able to duplicate the roller we built. Keep in mind
our roller was built to hold water as a means of adjusting the weight
of the roller to both soil and cover crop conditions. You’ll
see where the water-tight plug was welded into the end of the roller.
This also means your welds need to be water tight where the end
caps of the roller tube are concerned. I’m sure you all weld
better than I do, but it’s something to think about as you
approach the project.
Some folks have already built rollers or purchased them from the
same people who helped us with our project (I & J Manufacturing,
and are beginning to roll cover crops this spring. I have heard
from some guys out there who have had mixed results, particularly
rolling rye. This spring has been dry here in the East. Much of
the rye cover is extremely short, some less than 3 feet tall compared
with heights up to 7 feet in a well-watered year. If the rye is
short and hasn’t tillered much, the roller may not put it
down and kill it the way we’d like.
Rye stunted, hard to roll down:
Every year is a challenge and this one appears to be no different.
If the cover crop doesn’t kill you have the option of re-rolling
it after planting, coming back with a mowing operation or waiting
‘til the cash crop is up and growing and coming back with
a high-residue cultivator and removing it that way.
The vetch cover crops are just the opposite this year—they
look great. We have nice thick covers that seem to be ahead of schedule
in terms of flowering. I’m hopeful!
Here’s an observation:
soil in our reduced-growth rye fields is dry, while soil under our
robust-growth hairy vetch is almost moist. Same farm, same soil
types. Just the difference in how crops behave.
Whatever you experience this spring with cover crops and controlling
me some feedback. We’re compiling these pieces of agricultural
dialogue so we can expand the knowledge base and speed up the learning
curve for other farmers who are interested in trying this technology.
Hope all is going well on your farm.
From One Farm to Another