Blog

February 21, 2018

(Dr. Heather Darby speaking at the UVM Extension Northwest Crops & Soils Annual Field Day in July 2017, an event that provided approved Water Quality Training to attending farmers.)

By Kaitlin Hayes, VT Agency of Ag             

When the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) were enacted on December 5, 2017, they included many changes for farmers. One of these changes requires farmers and custom applicators to obtain Agricultural Water Quality Training.

Water Quality Training requires operators of Certified Small Farms and permitted Medium or Large Farms to obtain four hours water quality training every five years.

The training hours must be approved by the Secretary and cover the follow topics:

  • Prevention of Discharges
  • Mitigation or Management of Stormwater Runoff
  • Statutory or Regulatory Requirements for Operation of a Certified Small, Medium, or Large Farm Operations
  • Financial Resources Available to Assist Farming Operations
  • Mechanical Application of Manure or Nutrients
  • Methods or Techniques Used to Minimize Runoff of Applied Manure or Nutrients to Waters of the State
  • Weather and Soil Conditions That Increase the Risk of Runoff of Manure or Nutrients to Waters of the State
  • Standards for Nutrient Management Including Nutrient Management Planning

Training offered by other entities and partners can be approved to fulfill this requirement, as long as all events are approved by the Secretary. Sign-In sheets are provided at these events for farmers; the sheets are then submitted to the Agency, so farmer attendance and training hours can be logged.

Many ongoing or current events count for Water Quality Training Credits, all farmers should make sure to check in with event organizers regarding opportunities for receiving credits. Some events that fulfill Training requirements are: Nutrient Management Plan Classes, Soil Health Field Days, Precision Agriculture Forums, Innovative Agriculture Discussions, Educational RAP Presentations or Classes, as well as many other events.

The requirement for Water Quality Training Credits became effective July 1, 2017. The Agency will use Sign-In sheets to track the credits earned by farmers, and to recognize those farmers that have gone above and beyond to learn about agricultural impacts on water quality and have earned the most credits:

  • Distinction in Water Quality Knowledge Award: Annually awarded to the farm operation or operator that has earned the most credits for the timespan of July 1, 2017 – July 1, 2018
  • 5 Years of Excellence in Water Quality Knowledge Award: Awarded to the farm operation or operator that has earned the most Water Quality Training Credits throughout the duration of the 5-year cycle spanning July 1, 2017 – July 1, 2022

The Agency encourages partners to submit Event Applications, to increase opportunities for farmers to earn Credit hours.

Make sure to check the Agriview Calendar or the Agency’s Calendar online for upcoming events

For more information on Water Quality Training requirements or to ask other questions, please email AGR.WaterQuality@vermont.gov or call (802) 828-2431.

For partners and organizers - to find an Event Application, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/sites/ag/files/WQ_Training_Event_Application_Final.pdf

February 21, 2018

(Jonlee Secret Langwathby is 2017’s National Total Performance Winner. Photo Coutesy: Brown Swiss Association)

For the third consecutive year, Jonlee Secret Langwathby has won the Total Performance Cow and Cow For All Seasons Awards. The awards are presented to the cow that produces the most lifetime milk in the least amount of days, while placing in the top half of her respective class at a national show.

Langwathby was bred by John and Lisa Roberts on an organic dairy farm in Cornwall. The Roberts' sold their herd of about 190 purebred Brown Swiss cows in 2012 and now John is a Water Quality Specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets.

Langwathby is now owned by Dalton, Dillon and Breanne Freeman from Bremen, IN. She and her 140 herdmates are milked on robotic milkers. The highly decorated Brown Swiss holds multiple milking records as well as many show awards.

Congratualtions Langwathby!

Click here for more information.

February 19, 2018

 

Coming soon to your local USDA FSA Office

In the recent federal legislative action surrounding the budget, multiple changes were made to the Margin Protection Program.  It is important for all dairy farmers to fully investigate these changes and determine if this improved program will help manage risk on their farms. 

Here are the main changes

The Leahy-led dairy provisions make six specific changes:

  • Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately reopen the sign-up period for calendar year 2018 for the Margin Protection Program (MPP) to allow farmers to reevaluate the costs and protections the program can now provide their farm.  The sign up period will re-open after final rules are issued by USDA.
  • Immediately moves the MPP calculations and potential payments to a monthly basis (currently bimonthly) to improve the accuracy and timeliness for helping farmers.
  • Immediately cuts the premium costs for Tier I enrollment by nearly 70 percent to incentivize producer participation at meaningful levels of protection and makes that change this year.
  • Raises the Tier I threshold level corresponding to substantially lower premium costs to the first 5 million pounds of production (nationally equivalent to 220 cows), up from the current level of 4 million pounds of production (nationally equivalent to 175 cows). This will better align the program with the median U.S. dairy farm size, 223 cows, and encourage more family farms to participate and secure meaningful levels of protection to offer an effective farm safety net.
  • Waives $100 administrative fees for underserved producers, bringing the program in line with other USDA programs with similar service fee waivers.
  • Repeals the unfair statutory cap for the USDA’s underwriting costs for livestock insurance products.

Dairy farmers should discuss the potential for flexibility in payment for this program with USDA Farm Service Agency after the final rule is issued by USDA.

The following information may be helpful for farmers to decide to take part in the improved program and to determine what margin level may work for their individual farms. The numbers below were available at the writing of this article.  

At the Vermont Farm Show, before the new law passed, Agri-Mark Inc. presented the following margin calculations representing a two-month average:

 

Jan.-Feb.

March-April

May-June

July-Aug.

Sept.-Oct.

Nov.-Dec.

2018

$7.79

$7.02

$7.23

$7.79

$8.75

9.01

USDA has a graph and a chart showing the probability of a payment under the current program before the law passed based on a two month average.  To read this probability chart, there is a 57% chance that the margin will hit $7.00 in March-April 2018.  It is anticipated USDA will update its information when the final rule is issued to reflect the changes in the law including the monthly margin calculation.

Information to assist with your decision – Probability chart for 2018 from February 14, 2018

Margin Level

Jan-Feb 2018

March – April 2018

May – June 2018

July -Aug. 2018

Sept.- Oct.

2018

Nov.-Dec. 2018

Expected

$7.75

$6.90

$7.06

$7.78

$8.66

$8.98

$8.00

86%

98%

86%

59%

28%

19%

$7.50

14%

86%

70%

40%

15%

9%

$7.00

 

57%

48%

23%

6%

4%

$6.50

 

24%

26%

11%

2%

1%

$6.00

 

5%

10%

4%

1%

 

$5.50

 

1%

4%

1%

 

 

$5.00

 

 

1%

 

 

 

$4.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

$4.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USDA Farm Service Agency will be able to answer questions about the Margin Protection Program and enroll participants after the final rule is issued by USDA.

February 18, 2018

A Vermont farm and its champion cow is celebrating...again!

Rosiers "Blexy" Goldwyn was recognized in Holstein International's February edition as 2017 World Champion. The honor is voted on by readers and two independent judges. In this year's contest, a record number of voters chose Blexy as the world's top holstein. 

Blexy, a classic black-and-white Holstein known by many as a tribute to dairy strength, was selected as the top bovine of all the dairy breeds at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. With more than 2,300 entries, the dairy show is considered the Kentucky Derby of the cow world. Blexy also recently won an All-Canadian title.

The seven-year-old animal is co-owned by Borderview Genetics in Richford, Vermont. Co-owners Tim and Sharyn Abbott focus on breeding cows that will reach the top of their class. 

“We knew Blexy was special. Now we know that the world thinks so too,” said Tim Abbott, who has nurtured their cow along her path to the pinnacle of the cow business.

Related Stories: 

 
 
February 16, 2018

By Kaitlin Hayes, Vermont Agency of Agricuture, Food & Markets

Less than three miles outside of St. Albans City, there are few pieces of evidence displaying the construction that took place over the summer and fall months of 2017 on Holyoke Farm, except for the presence of a newly finished manure storage facility.

Holyoke Farm is a Certified Small Farm Operation owned and operated by Jack and Heather Brigham, with the help of their children. The storage facility has been a long time in the making, and was made possible through funding from the Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Market’s Best Management Practice (BMP) Program. The BMP Program provides cost share funding to farmers for implementation of projects that will improve water quality within the State. The Brigham’s were responsible for approximately 20% of the cost of the project, some of which was covered through a Dairy Improvement Grant through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB). The total cost of the pit will amount to nearly $180,000.

Holyoke Farm has been in the Brigham family since the early 1700’s. Jack and his brother bought the farm from their parents and started milking in the early 1970’s. The farm historically milked a larger, conventional herd; now, the 60-70 registered Jerseys milked by the Brigham’s are Certified Organic. The farm also houses over 100 chickens and sells fresh eggs, in addition to running a large-scale maple sugar operation.

The Brigham’s first built a manure storage facility in 1980; it was one of the first in the area and was dug in the soil. As time progressed, science advanced, and standards for storage structures changed, the Brigham’s began engaging in conversations with NRCS about a new structure. The new storage facility is capable of well over 200 days of storage, in a pit that is lined with the same thick, impervious 60 mm poly-plastic that is used to line landfills. The bottom of the pit was completely drained and filled with sand to cushion the bottom and assure that nothing would puncture the plastic, before the liner was laid down.

Jack was initially opposed to building the new pit. He explained, “It’s quite a project, and manure is produced every day on a farm. You put hay in the front end, and when it comes out the other end, it doesn’t look anything like hay anymore. But we knew we needed to make some changes.” The timing of the project was complex, as the old pit had to be completely emptied. The project began in July of 2017, and was completed in early December of 2017. Jack hopes his sons will eventually take over the farm, they have some concerns about the hardships with the current dairy market and farming in general, but worrying about runoff or leaching from manure storage will no longer be a concern. About ten years ago, Jack and Heather put the farm into a land trust, ensuring that the land will never be developed.

The farm is located in the St. Albans watershed, one of the most impaired watersheds in the State. The Brigham’s realized their location adjacent to the Rock Creek, a small stream that eventually empties into the St. Alban’s Bay of Lake Champlain, and implemented many conservation practices that improve water quality by decreasing runoff potential - such as utilizing a dragline system, installation of laneways for livestock to travel on, vegetated buffer strips, and livestock exclusion fencing from waterways on the property. Several of these projects were also made possible with both federal and state funding.

Jack shared his thoughts on the progress and evolution of farmers’ efforts to improve water quality: “The farmers are truly making an effort to be responsible, way more than 20 years ago. We all got to live here together, we all got to keep our waters clean, and I don’t know of any farmers (and I know most all of them around here), that aren’t doing all they can to try to make things better and not cause issues…We’re working on it, but it took 100 years to get it this way, it’s not going to come back overnight.”

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