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February 19, 2005

Farm Select Link On The ATTRA Website

Hey, we're thrilled! FarmSelect got a little write up last week in the Weekly Harvest Newsletter on the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service's website, published by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) as part of its Appropriate Technology Transfer to Rural Areas (ATTRA) project.

ATTRA/NCAT is one the most comprehensive, credible and influential organizations involved in creating a sustainable, profitable economy for rural areas, and those of us who are country people know that means farming!

(Myself, I was born in a town of 85 people in south central Vermont, years before the introduction of pavement, electricity or telephones...)

Posted by shepherd.ogden at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005

Industrial and Biopharm Crops at NCGA

National Corn Growers To Host Conference on Biopharm and Industrial Crops

Second generation transgenic crops are being designed more for expression of traits useful to processors than to farmers. Doing so complete the industrialization of the farm and finishes the long term trend toward making farmers producers of industrial inputs rather than simply (but more importantly) food and fiber.

So now farming really has been reduced to manufacturing, but with that old sad twist we've heard before: the farmer is the only businessperson forced to buy their imputs at retail and sell all their outputs at wholesale. Read more about it here.

Posted by shepherd.ogden at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2005

What Makes Worms Sick?

Breaking News Ground On Bt Resistance

Researchers at the University of California -- San Diego have identified a molecule in the gut of caterpillars and roundworms that is responsible for their susceptibility to Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) toxin, which is widely used by organic farmers, and has been genetically engineered into some corn hybrids to kill corn earworm and rootworm.

Since Bt is non-toxic to humans, one new idea that has come out of this work is to create a pill for that would kill roundworms, human parasites that in the developing world can cause both river blindness and elephantisis.

The research paper is available in the journal Science.

Posted by shepherd.ogden at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Organic Livestock and Grains in the Virginia Piedmont

Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers Association

This past Friday I paid a visit to the Virginia piedmont, just over the Blue Ridge from the Shenandoah Valley, where I was raised. I was headed to Ayrshire Farm, where Sandy Lerner has done a wonderful job of restoring a classic Piedmont farm to its glory. It is, as the website notes "a working farm that has met the 21st century with one foot firmly planted in the 19th."

The occasion was a conference for Piedmont farmers who are considering an entry into the organic meat market. As many of you certainly know, organic meat is the fastest growing sector of the organic market (79% a year), which is the fastest growing section of American agriculture (20% a year). This has had the effect (fortunate from the perspective of grain farmers and unfortunate as far as prospective organic meat producers are concerned) of raising organic grain prices to record levels. To get a sense of just how high prices are -- if you can find any organic grain at all to buy -- then check out the New Farm Organic Price Index and look at what organic #2 Yellow Corn is bringing in your area! But there is a solution...

...which is to grow your own organic grain. And that is just what people at the Virginia Organic Producers and Consumers Association (VOPACA) meeting were considering. It was an eminently practical meeting, in that the main presentations included a pair (Ellen Holton and Meghan Kuhn) from one of the oldest organic certification agencies, Quality Assurance International (QAI) and one of Virginia's best known independent organic inspectors, Catherine Cash. In one afternoon the assembled forty or so farmers got a complete rundown on the size of the market and exactly what they'd need to do -- in a regulatory sense -- to take advantage of it.

Virginia is fortunate to have two slaughter facilities that can process organic meats, so the main hitch at this point (other than the farmer's decision to give organic production a try) is feed cost, and the fact that prices are high does not affect production cost for the individual farmer. Modeling those costs is exactly what FarmSelect is all about, so I was thrilled to be there, and to be given 2-3 minutes to describe what it can do to help production farmers understand the differences between conventional and organic production budgets.

Now if we can just get our online course whipped into shape by this fall, so all those newly psyched up producers can while away a few winter evenings learning about the operational differences...I'll feel like all these hours staring into a computer screen -- instead of being out in the field -- will have been worth it!

Posted by shepherd.ogden at 01:50 PM | Comments (2)

February 06, 2005

Subsidy Payments Set To Drop

The new USDA budget is set to be unveiled Monday, and the details are likely to play the devil with long standing interest group coalitions. Of course the final level of funding -- and more importantly the distribution of that funding between the various kinds of payments will not really be known until Congress does the dirty work of crafting a bill, and that is still a ways off. But you can bet the lobbyists are already on the phone.

Posted by shepherd.ogden at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)