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NODPA E-NEWSLETTER | January 24, 2014

Featured Farm: Kimball Brook Farm, VT

Cheryl and JD Devos own one of the larger organic dairy farms in Vermont, Kimball Brook Farm, located in North Ferrisburg, which has been organic since 2005. In March, 2008, the NODPA Newsletter featured their farm, (www.nodpa.com/kimballfarmvt.shtml ) which shared their transition experience, animal housing, herd health, and pasture management practices. Cheryl and JD had been shipping organic milk for three years and although they were very grateful for their market, they were starting to notice that the pay price for their milk was not keeping up with the rising costs of production. It was not in their nature to sit idly by and watch their margin continue to shrink, so they started to actively look into ways in which they could add value to their milk and earn a higher profit for their product. Read more about how they started their own creamery and are breaking even after only 2 years:

www.nodpa.com/ff_january_2014.shtml

Economic Sustainability of Vermont
Organic Dairy Farms: How Strong Is the Economic Leg?

The study of the economics of organic dairying by Bob Parsons, UVM Extension, and Lisa McCrory is in its tenth year and is the longest running study of its kind in the US. Producers are always being told to back up their claims for an increase in pay price with data, which Bob and Lisa’s study has done. The following are some quotes taken from Bob Parsons’ article:, “In conclusion, organic farms are getting by,” “Organic is not the road to riches for many,” “Higher milk prices are needed but can the market absorb a higher price without losing consumer demand?” “There should be concern for the long run viability and sustainable and healthy supply of organic milk from Vermont farms.” To read Bob’s article, complete with charts and tables, please go to:

www.nodpa.com/in_vermont_dairy_study_01202014.shtml

Environmentalists, Farmers Challenge USDA’s Call for the Deregulation of Crops with Genetically Engineered Tolerance to the Highly Toxic Herbicide 2,4-D

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released for public input its Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS), which calls for the deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans engineered to be tolerant to the toxic herbicide 2,4-D. These new varieties of GE corn and soybean, created partly due to proliferate weed resistance resulting from the widespread use of glyphosate (Roundup) on other GE crops, is set to usher in dramatic increases in 2,4-D use with associated health and environmental hazards, according to environmental scientists. According to Nichelle Harriott, senior scientist at the national environmental group Beyond Pesticides, “The engineered varieties will not only spawn new weed resistant strains, but contaminate the environment and increase the public health risks to cancer and Parkinson’s disease, especially in farmworkers and farming communities exposed to 2,4-D.” To read more please go to:

www.nodpa.com/in_genetic_crop_challenge_01202014.shtml

Feed and Pay Price Update

Organic fluid milk sales are growing steadily with a year-to-date increase of 4.7% over last year, with some strong competition in the dairy case in the Northeast as Horizon Organic maintains the number one position in retail sales, with sales of store brand/private label in second place. What is equally interesting is what the major organic milk companies are doing as organic increases its drive toward consolidation. WhiteWave have decided to sell their large organic dairy in Idaho (can’t make it pay) and is now expanding into China through a joint-venture agreement with China Mengniu Dairy Co., plus they have just completed their $600 million purchase of Earthbound Farm, a California company that sells organic salads, dried fruits and frozen fruits and vegetables. Organic Valley, through its subsidiaries Organic Prairie and Lorentz Meats, is investing in a slaughterhouse and meat processing facility in southern Vermont and will distribute product throughout New England in partnership with Black River Produce, despite the fact that reports say their organic beef program is struggling. Stonyfield has decided to set up their own pool of milk in New England, and Blue Goose (Canada) is expanding rapidly (Google them!).

Organic corn is still in the $10-12 per bushel range in the midwest but there are fears of a lower than average bushel weight. Organic livestock and grain farmers have plenty to deal with over and above the weather, which is literally freezing teats on milking cows no matter what producers use to try to protect them. Organic grain growers are faced with projections that conventional prices for corn will drop as low as $2-3 per bushel in 2015, the organic price would then be projected at $6-7 per bushel (roughly double the conventional price). If that happens we will see an exodus of organic grain producers. Grain producers need a fair price to ensure that we have enough domestic production for livestock. At that lower price there will probably be a slowdown in imported grains, except that the organic poultry farms are the biggest consumers of organic grain and are currently importing product from countries as far away as India, which comes into the US from Canada.

For more details please go to:

www.nodpa.com/feed_prices_01_24_14.shtml

Should Soilless Hydroponic Growing Operations be Certified Organic?

Hydroponics is the system of growing crops in nutrient solutions, usually indoors and under lights. Organic Standards clearly require that only biologically and ecologically based growing practices qualify as organic.

Organic integrity is at stake here. The National Organic Program (NOP) is already allowing some certifying agencies to OK hydroponic operations and is ready to issue a directive that completely bypasses the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) 2010 recommendations and review process to give hydroponic operations the full go-ahead.

Some biologically active, ecologically-balanced operations such as aquaponics (utilizing fish-based nutrient systems) may well qualify but it is imperative that the NOP first take on the difficult task of writing standards – based on the required NOSB guideline input – before allowing hydroponics as an organic practice.

A petition to persuade the NOP to undertake this review process was begun by a Vermont farmer earlier this month and is spreading all around the country.

Please Sign this Petition Now to Protect Organic Integrity!!

GO TO: http://www.keepthesoilinorganic.org/

Upcoming Winter Conferences for 2014: Part II

Each year, it seems there are more and more options for producers to travel and learn from fellow farmers, consultants, and researchers. It is not only gratifying to see the wealth of information, but also the vibrant Trade Shows, delicious food, and times during the days and evenings to network and spend quality time with friends, old and new. To find highlights for a handful of conferences taking place in Ohio, New York, Vermont, and Wisconsin, please go:

nodpa.com/in_winter_conferences2014_part2_01202014.shtml

More events can be found in the Calendar section of the NODPA website:

http://www.nodpa.com/events.shtml

Who is responsible for the audit trail for transporting milk and hay? USDA Releases Guidance on handling unpackaged organic products.

The NOP has posted in its Handbook final guidance on whether a hauler of organic bulk products (hay, organic milk) needs to be certified:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5106108

NODPA amongst others took an active role in this process with its comments to NOP in response to the draft guidance published in 2012. We stressed that guidance should be both practical, not an unrealistic burden on producers but still maintain the integrity of the product from farm to table. On most levels this guidance does that.

In summary this guidance allocates the responsibility for the audit trail for ensuring that there is no co-mingling of product or contact with prohibited substances when bulk products are transported to whoever pays and controls the trucking. Below is an extract from the guidance that describes what NOP is looking for by way of an audit trail: The certified organic operation responsible for the organic products that are transported must:

  • Maintain records in sufficient detail as to be readily understood and audited;

  • Maintain the audit trail and trace ability of organic products;

  • Prevent comingling and contamination of the certified products during transportation

  • Fully describe the transportation practices in the organic system plan; and

  • Ensure that the transportation records for organic products are available for inspection

With transportation of organic milk the certified organic operation who is responsible for gathering the information for the certifier is the entity that pays for and controls the transportation – the processor; for a producer who is purchasing organic hay then the responsibility shifts to whoever pays for the trucking, so could be either the producer, dealer or farmer selling the hay. NOP is running a workshop for certifiers to ensure that there is consistent interpretation of this guidance.

-- Ed Maltby, NODPA Executive Director  

NODPA NEWS & NOTES

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Feed and Pay Price Updates

Organic fluid milk sales are growing steadily with a year-to-date increase of 4.7% over last year, with some strong competition in the dairy case in the Northeast as Horizon Organic maintains the number one position in retail sales, with sales of store brand/private label in second place.

Organic corn is still in the $10-12 per bushel range in the midwest but there are fears of a lower than average bushel weight.

For more details on feed and pay price go to:

feed_prices_01_24_14.shtml

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