Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference

My colleagues in Gaston County have put together a great conference called Putting Small Acreage to Work.

This conference will take place on Saturday January 26, 2013 at the Gaston County Cooperative Extension office in Dallas, NC.

Here is the press release.

Media Contact:
Lara Worden


If you are looking for ways to make a living or supplement your income off of your land, we invite you to attend the Putting Small Acreage to Work Conference on January 26, 2013 at the Gaston County Citizens Resource Center in Dallas, NC from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The goal of this conference is to encourage the success and viability of small farm operations through educational workshops, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities.  You will be able to explore alternative enterprises by speaking with successful producers, university personnel, and experts in the field who are already growing, producing, and researching various crops, livestock and field techniques to enhance production. Conference tracks include sessions on aquaculture, fruit production, pastured pork, pasture management, beef cattle production, parasite management for small ruminants, growing specialty crops, direct marketing of meats, forages for free range birds, importance of cover crops, and QuickBooks for farmers.

Class sessions will start promptly after registration. The program will include three breakout sessions, plus a special session on parasite management for small ruminants. Three to four topics will be discussed concurrently during each of these breakout sessions.

Pre-registration forms and a fee of $35 per person and $20 for each additional person are due by Monday, January 23. Checks made payable to Gaston County Cooperative Extension. To register go to: http://smallacres.eventbrite.com or call Gaston Co. Cooperative Extension at 704-922-2112 for more information.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2013 Vegetable Handbook Available On-Line


 The 2013 Southeastern Vegetable Crop Handbook is now available on-line.  The hard copies will be available early next year.  Make sure to visit your local Cooperative Extension office to pick one up!

Pesticide Use and IPM

I think many of you will find this statement interesting and very applicable for both conventional and organic producers of all crops.

Statement on “Least Toxic” & “Last Resort”

Recommendations and decisions to use “least toxic pesticides” and “pesticides as a last resort” have flourished in the last decade, but according to three scientific organizations – the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), the American Phytopathological Society (APS) and the Plant-Insect Ecosystems Section of the Entomological Society of America (P-IE ESA) – these are not the correct approaches to the pesticide component of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. The three organizations have joined to take an objective look at these two descriptions and prepared a position statement.

It is essential to practice integrated pest management (IPM), whether managing weeds, insect pests or plant disease - on the farm, on commercial sites, on public lands, or in or around the home. Key components of IPM include making the habitat unfavorable for pests, excluding pests where feasible, using proper sanitation practices, monitoring the infestation level, knowing the pest tolerance level for the specific situation and implementing the necessary management practices. Judicious use of pesticides is a critical component of many IPM programs.

Judicious (careful) use refers to various practices - following all label directions and making all appropriate stewardship decisions required in the particular situation. This includes applying a product registered for the target pest(s) after accurate pest identification, and consideration of the level of infestation and the potential for economic, health or other negative pest impacts. Careful use extends beyond pesticides to household chemicals, automobiles, medicines, alcoholic beverages, and countless other products that are part of our daily lives.

“Least toxic” implies there are pesticides available for every pest spectrum that are least toxic to everything else. This is not true. The toxicity of a pesticide depends on what is being evaluated and who or what may be affected. It is also important to remember that toxicity is not the same as risk, which is dependent on both toxicity and exposure. The risk associated with the use of pesticides and other chemicals is managed by establishing safe exposure levels based on the toxicity specific to each product. Assigning a “most” or “least” toxic rating does not equate to actual risk when the product is properly applied.

“Last resort” implies that pesticides will work as well when every non-chemical control technique is attempted first. However, delaying application of a pesticide can cause buildup of the pest(s) in crops, gardens, buildings and other sites, with negative impacts on yield, quality and/or health. In fact, delaying treatment can significantly increase the ecological and economic damage to crop and non-crop areas.

Using pesticides as the last line of defense can result in a more limited choice of pesticides, as well as reduced crop tolerance, the need for higher rates, and less effective control because of higher infestation levels and/or more tolerant pest stages. For example, seedling weeds and early-stage insect larvae and diseases are usually more easily controlled than later pest stages. Effective pesticide choices, when they are applied as a “last resort,” means fewer options to rotate pesticides, which is a critical step in preventing a pest from becoming resistant to a pesticide. “Last resort” pesticide strategies may also increase the need for multiple products and higher application rates to control the pest effectively. The term also suggests pesticides are always the worst choice, which is not true. First using non-chemical techniques that are ineffective or inefficient has the potential to add to the cost of pest management, intensify the pest problem or create new problems.

Finally, by branding pesticides as the “last resort” choice certainly does not stimulate a strong public interest in funding education on their proper use. Pesticides are widely used, but discretionary federal funding of the U.S. Pesticide Safety Education Program has been eliminated in 2011 and 2012.

This program is vital to educate pesticide users and dealers who must be certified to apply or sell pesticides, and to teach the public how to use pesticides safely. There is no benefit or scientific basis to simplistic messages like “use least toxic pesticides as a last resort” for the large number of pesticide users who apply pesticides according to the label and practice good stewardship. Nor are these messages beneficial for those who neither seek training nor adequately read the label believing instead that it is safe, practical, and effective to simply choose a product considered a “least toxic pesticide” and apply it only as a “last resort.” These messages hinder pesticide safety and stewardship education and practices that are in the best interest of the pesticide user, our food supply, public health and ecosystem preservation.

(WSSA/APS/P-IE ESA joint statement, 11/12/12).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

NOP Releases New Guides for Organic Certification

Written by NCAT experts, guides are part of NOP ‘Organic Literacy Initiative’

Beginning farmers and existing organic operations can find detailed information about organic certification in a series of new guides available now on the ATTRA-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website.

The guides were written by sustainable-agriculture experts at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) in partnership with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

They are part of the USDA’s Organic Literacy Initiative, which was launched earlier this year. This effort has included self-paced training modules, outreach materials, and a guide to organic and organic-related USDA programs.

The initiative is focused on answering one of the main questions for farms and businesses considering organic certification: “What would I need to change in order to go organic?”

The earlier Organic Literacy Initiative materials provided an overview designed as a first step in understanding organic certification. The new guides help prospective organic operations take the next step: learning more about their specific type of organic production.

They also are helpful for current organic operations looking to adopt new management approaches and better understand NOP standards.

The four guides provide detailed information about the relevant organic requirements, provide best practices, and further explain the certification process.

• Guide to Organic Crop Producers

• Guide for Organic Livestock Producers

• Guide for Organic Processors

• Organic Certification of Farms and Businesses Producing Agricultural Products

The guides can be downloaded for free or ordered as a paper publication for a small handling fee either at the links above or on the ATTRA website at www.attra.ncat.org.
ATTRA has been the nation’s leading resource for information on sustainable agriculture since 1987. NCAT developed and maintains ATTRA through a cooperative agreement with the USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

ATTRA covers a wide range of topics, including reducing pesticide use on cropland, promoting food safety in sustainable production systems, reducing farm energy use and costs, enriching soils with the use of cover crops, and providing technical assistance in the growing areas of local farmers markets and urban gardening.


Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers, NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices. More information about its programs and services is available at www.ncat.org or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tighter Organic Standards Begin in 2013

Source URL: http://southwestfarmpress.com/government/tighter-organic-standards-begin-2013

Farm Press Staff
Southeast Farm Press

Tighter organic standards begin in 2013

A USDA audit that found that agencies monitoring organic food producers were not conducting periodic testing for pesticide residues has led to new rules requiring such tests on 5 percent of organic foods, the Agriculture Department announced.

In a Federal Register notice, USDA said that agencies that certify organic producers must begin testing for residues on at least 5 percent of organic farms next year. The tests, estimated to cost $500 each, would be paid for by the certifying organizations, not their clients.

Under current USDA regulations, organic food producers receive an initial inspection before being certified and allowed to use the USDA Organic Seal. But no one follows up to make sure the farms do not apply synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or other materials not permitted in organic farming operations.

The new requirement will help protect the integrity of the $30-billion-a-year organic food industry, USDA officials said. Periodic testing for prohibited residues will prevent the mislabeling of organic foods in the nation's supermarkets.

While the new USDA regulations will help, they don’t go far enough to ensure that all organic farmers are playing by the rules, according to critics who have been following the ongoing debate on the Agriculture Department’s National Organic Program or NOP.

Other 95 percent?

“The USDA recently announced plans to begin testing 5 percent of the farms and processors it certifies under its decade-old National Organic Program,” said Mischa Popoff, a former organic farm inspector. “But in the interests of keeping organic food in America as pure and as nutritious as possible, we have to ask: What about the other 95 percent?

Popoff, a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute and author of a recent book called “Is It Organic,” also questioned the timing of the testing that will be conducted under the new USDA format.

“Of the 5 percent of farms and processors the USDA plans to test, officials say they will require that some of them are subjected to pre-harvest testing. But surely it would be advisable to do mostly pre-harvest testing. After all, the benefits of organic production all occur in the field. So what better way to ensure that organic crops and livestock are indeed purer and more nutritious than to do all testing in the field?”

With the exception of genetically-modified organisms, almost everything that’s prohibited in organic production dissipates and in many cases becomes undetectable over time, Popoff notes. “So there’s little point wasting time or money testing organic crops post-harvest. In order to prevent cheating, all testing in the organic industry must occur prior to harvest.

“Whether it’s herbicides, pesticides, hormones, improperly-composted manure, or the big-money-maker: synthetic ammonium nitrate, only an unannounced inspection and field test will deter fraud and gross negligence in the multibillion dollar organic sector.”

USDA said the certifying agencies will decide which organic farms and processors will be tested. Allowing flexibility in inspections will help reduce costs.

Critics also are concerned about inspections of organic food that's imported into the United States every year, under USDA oversight, from countries like China, Mexico and Brazil. Imports account for nearly half of the organic food sold in the U.S. annually.

In-season testing

“Consider that Olympic athletes are tested before and during the games, not after. And the good news in the case of organic farming is that doing such tests in the field – 100 percent of the time instead of just 5 percent of the time – will drastically reduce a farmer’s cost of being certified, because field testing costs about one-tenth what the current system of record-keeping and record-checking costs.

While USDA officials say the cost of this new plan will be about $500 per test, a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis costs just $125, Popoff notes. “And what about testing for fecal coliforms? That costs just $16 per test, money well spent when one considers the risks inherent in improperly-composted manure.”

Popoff says Heartland does not suggest testing for everything every year. “As long as the party being inspected doesn't know what’s being tested for, a broad-spectrum herbicide analysis or a fecal coliform test, or any of a host of other inexpensive tests, would suffice to prove or disprove a farmer’s or processor’s adherence to the NOP and hopefully keep everyone honest.”

Another issue concerns the ‘royalties’ being collected by USDA-accredited certifiers. Private, for-profit companies collect 1 percent to 3 percent of a farmer’s gross revenue from each transaction they certify? Critics believe organic field testing must be carried out by independent inspectors.