In July of 2012, the dairy heifers at Green Wind Farm did something that that farm’s heifers had never done before. They transitioned to pasture without losing condition. They did it thanks to owner Julie Wolcott using a little bit of animal behavior science to not only teach the heifers to eat weeds, but to also give them the experience they needed to find food in pasture on day one. As an organic dairy farmer Julie was looking for tools to manage her milkweed, brown knapweed and thistle in pasture. Before starting she made sure that the weeds were safe to eat and that they would not cause changes in milk flavor. Julie worked with Kathy Voth, Livestock for Landscapes, to develop a recipe and a training schedule for teaching her livestock about eating many different plant species. For the complete article by Kathy Voth and some great photos, please go to:
Organic Check-Off discussions at the OFARM annual meeting, the MOSES Conference and OTA Town Hall Meeting at La Crosse WI
Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) will be holding their annual meeting in La Crosse, WI on 2/20 and 2/21 and they will be sponsoring a checkoff discussion and debate during their meeting. A panel moderated by Patty Lovera, Food and Water Watch Vice-President, will discuss the proposed Organic Research and Promotion Checkoff. The panel will consist of Richard Mathews, USDA Associate Deputy Administrator (retired), Oren Holle OFARM President and Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director. The panel will discuss the pitfalls, concerns, areas of agreement and alternative structure for a checkoff as proposed plus take part in a Q and A.
Organic Checkoff Workshop at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference- Friday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. Room R at the Conference Center. The make-up of this workshop has changed as the Organic Trade Association representatives who are proponents of the checkoff have withdrawn from participation in the workshop. The workshop will be a discussion of a “variety of options to both fund and oversee this type of program (Organic Research and Promotion Program), plus take questions from attendees.” The panel will consist of Richard Mathews, USDA Associate Deputy Administrator (retired), Oren Holle OFARM President and Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director plus others invited.
On Saturday, February 24 at 8:30 a.m. the Organic Trade Association will hold a Town Hall Meeting on their proposed Organic Research and Promotion Order. The venue for the meeting is not posted on their website at this time but we understand it will be held at the Radisson, La Crosse, WI. For more information on the OTA proposal:
Jim Riddle’s thoughts on
an Organic Check-OFF
Jim is one of the leaders of the organic community. He has a long history within organic and sustainable agriculture dating back to his work with the Land Stewardship Project in 1983. More recently he was the Chair of the NOSB, is a popular and well respected speaker at conferences and continues his work as an educator at the University of Minnesota, plus being an expert on organic policy, a proponent of organic and sustainable agriculture and last but not least a farmer.
Jim’s thoughts include the following “If a check off is implemented, I am concerned that organic agriculture could be forever relegated to a niche market status, when the larger goal is to change all of agriculture to be ecologically sustainable. Organic should be integrated into all agricultural programs, including research and promotion, rather than being pushed off to the side with its own pot of money.” To download the complete text of Jim’s position please go to:
For more information on the Check-off please go to:
Pay and Retail Price update
The current reality with organic pay price is that processors are offering increases in pay price though seasonal Market Adjustment Premiums (MAP’s) but costs are rising as rapidly as the premiums are extended. Producers are reporting record high farm-gate pay prices this winter, between $35-$40/cwt with quality and component payments added, but are still having difficulty paying bills. In the Northeast, both Horizon and Organic Valley are paying the same pay price before quality premiums are added, $30-31/cwt when seasonal MAP’s are averaged over the whole year, which is only $3 higher than 2008. With the expansion of Trickling Springs processor which produces an all grass fed organic product (“Cows are grass-fed**we allow minimal grain feeding for the cows body condition”) there is more interest in the work that Pennsylvania Certified Organic is doing on an all grass-fed label with the usual discussions around how pure the standards should be. More choices for producers in who they can sell their milk to is always good and in the past has brought higher pay prices. The producers in the West are feeling the strain as their cost of feed and purchased forage continue to increase and its time to address again the regional criteria for establishing pay price as the price of producing organic milk increases across the whole country. Perhaps this is an issue that the nine candidates for the CROPP Board can address along with the declining, and many times non-existent, profitability of organic family dairy farms. For more information, charts and graphs on what is happening in the organic dairy sector please go to:
Feeding Homegrown Forages
Growing your own forages has never been more important than now. After two years of tough growing conditions for the Midwest, the costs of inputs continue to rise. When you evaluate your farming systems from a holistic standpoint, you must be conscious of the inputs over which you can have the most control. In years past the traditional dairy farm model has been to grow forages and buy grains. As of late, the recommendation is increasingly to grow both your own forages and grains. This puts the ‘ball in your court’ and allows you to control more of your farms’ inputs. By producing your own inputs, you can decide whether or not these crops feed livestock or are sold on the market. For the complete article by Joshua Baker of Kings AgriSeeds please go to:
Feed Price Update
On a recent conference call with organic dairy producers from across the country it was very clear that everyone has been fine-tuning their calculations about the inventory of their feed as availability of purchased organic forage and grain is both spotty and expensive. It is at times like this when the pay price, though relatively high with extended MAP’s, good component pricing and seasonal payments, doesn’t cover cost of inputs, that the integrity of organic production is stretched with the temptation to purchase non-organic feed. Organic dairy farm families need to be paid enough to support their cost of production as we must now plan for cost of feed and inputs at new high norms. Corn has been at over $12/bushel for over a year and shows no sign of declining and organic soybean contract for delivery in October 2013 are priced at $28/bushel. If parity pricing was an accepted form of deciding pay price, the organic pay price would be at least $20 higher than it is now. For more details and graphs about feed prices, please go to:
Cornell Organic Dairy Business Summary 2011
The Dairy Farm Business Summary is completed annually and is used to measure the progress of the farm business. Financial, herd and crop data are gathered to give the user an accurate picture of the farming operation at a specific point in time, usually the end of the year. The program used is web based on a secure server to preserve the confidentiality of the information. Cornell Cooperative extension personnel usually assist the producer in completing the data input, but with some training producers who are comfortable with computers can easily complete the program themselves. Data is reviewed by Cornell University farm management faculty for completeness and accuracy before being accepted as part of the database. For all the details and full report on organic dairy by Richard Overton, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Linda Putnam, Extension Support Specialist please go to:
Farmers are Responding to the Census.
Are You? USDA Says, Its Not too Late
Gary R. Keough, Director, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service New England Field Office says farmers and ranchers are not missing an opportunity to have their voices heard and their farms represented in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. According to the U.S. Department of Agricultures National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), almost 1.5 million Census forms were submitted by farmers, helping ensure communities and agricultural industry have a voice in the future. For producers who missed the February 4 deadline, NASS is alerting them that its not too late to be counted. The deadline for submitting Census forms was February 4, and many producers have responded. However, those who have not responded will receive a second copy of the form in the mail to give them another opportunity. Farmers can return their forms by mail or online by visiting a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov. Farmers that did not receive a questionnaire in the mail can still sign up to get one by registering at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/. They can enter their contact information and we will mail them a questionnaire. If you have questions about the Census or need help filling out your form, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888- 424-7828).
-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director
NODPA NEWS & NOTES
The Latest Feed Prices
Corn has been at over $12/bushel for over a year and shows no sign of declining and organic soybean contract for delivery in October 2013 are priced at $28/bushel. If parity pricing was an accepted form of deciding pay price, the organic pay price would be at least $20 higher than it is now. For more details and graphs about feed prices, please go to:
Pay and Retail Price update
The current reality with organic pay price is that processors are offering increases in pay price though seasonal Market Adjustment Premiums (MAP’s) but costs are rising as rapidly as the premiums are extended. Producers are reporting record high farm-gate pay prices this winter, between $35-$40/cwt with quality and component payments added, but are still having difficulty paying bills. For more, go to:
Recent ODairy Discussions
This unique email listserve that is sponsored, supported and moderated by NODPA is always active with questions, advice, shared stories and technical information about organic dairy and life in general. During the last few months there have been discussions around NOP variances of the pasture rule for drought, even whether it is within the organic philosophy and practice to have organic dairies in deserts and ideas about controlling Staph Aureus mastitis in dairy cows, plus many other topics and announcements. To sign up for the list serve please go to http://www.nodpa.com/
list_serv.shtml and for the complete article summarizing ODairy discussion by NODPA President Liz Bawden please go to:
The ODAIRY discussion list is a great resource for producers and industry people covering topics that include current industry news, animal health, crops, grazing management, certification, action alerts, calendar events, job listing, and livestock & feed for sale. The ODAIRY discussion list consists of over 500 members . . . and growing!
If you haven't joined this list yet, we encourage you to give it a try. To Join ODAIRY, please follow these simple instructions.
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