Dec 19, 2012

Rural Papers, No. 246 November-December 2012

Table of Contents

1) Season's Greetings  

2) Agriculture and Health Summit: 
     Conference Focuses on Mutiple Issues Impacting Food, Farming and Health

3) From the Executive Director:  Why KRC is Needed Now More Than Ever

4) Small Farmer Commentary: Drought Year Ponderings

5) Our Local Food Program Announcement: KRC Transfers Our Local Food Program to Kansas Department of Agriculture

6) Policy News:  
     Keep Up with the 2013 State Legislature and More
      2012 Farm Bill: A When and If Story

7) Sustainable Farming News: 
    KGA Winter Conference Set for January 19
    Organic Farming Opportunities and Benefits Highlighted at Forum

8) More Local Food News

9) Briefs

Season's Greetings!

As we look down the road toward what
next year holds for all of us, we wish you
a Happy and Healthy New Year!

From the Kansas Rural Center Staff and Board

Agriculture and Health Summit

Conference Focuses on Multiple Issues Impacting Food, Farming and Health 

        by Tracey Graham

“How does the way we grow our food affect our environment? the nutrient value of our food? our ability to provide access to food for all? and the health of our food and farm workers?” These were the questions posed by Julie Mettenburg, Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center, as she framed the day’s discussion at the beginning of the recent Agriculture and Health Summit held in Topeka, Kansas.

More than 80 people attended the “Healthy Farms, Healthy People” conference on November 16. The topic of the day was “Exploring Kansas Perspectives on the Connections Between Farms, Our Food System, and the Health of Our Population”.

Mettenburg challenged attendees to consider not just community action for change, but also public policy solutions to help support and drive that change. She also challenged them to open their minds to complex problems and solutions, and to set aside preconceived notions, such as that subsidies alone are the cause of food price inequities, or the common statement that Kansas farmers feed the world. “Are we even feeding our own state’s population?” she asked. “You will learn later today that we are not.”

Keynote speaker Robert Martin, policy analyst for Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, shared the results of the Pew Commission on Farm Animal Production, a two-year study he led along with former Kansas Governor John Carlin.

In 2008, the 16-member commission provided 24 recommendations for industrial animal agriculture, including the elimination of non-therapeutic use of antibiotics, a common protocol in confinement feeding operations.

Martin reported that some efforts at reducing antibiotics are being discussed by the FDA and that anticipated water quality policy changes in the Chesapeake Bay region may become a model. Martin said he expects the Pew Commission to release a 5-year anniversary update this coming April.

As for action that Kansans could take to improve agriculture for public health outcomes, Martin recommended contacting senators and representatives to demand a more democratic food policy. Also, ask questions at the meat counter, such as “How is this meat raised?” and don’t take “I don’t know” for an answer. He also suggested that HHS head Kathleen Sebelius might be receptive to Kansans requesting that the FDA address antibiotics in animal production.

Recent studies on the eating habits of Kansans, as well as issues of access, nutrition, food safety and environ-mental impact, and health impact on farmers and farm workers was the topic of speaker Barbara LaClair, policy analyst for the Kansas Health Institute.

LaClair distinguished between food deserts, rural regions and urban pockets where there is little or no access to healthy foods, and Food Swamps, where unhealthy food options are overabundant. Nearly half of Kansas counties contain USDA-designated “food desert” communities, with some western counties having no grocery store at all.

She said that KHI recommendations to improve the food environment include changes to farm policy to align food production more closely with dietary recommendations, emphasizing nutrient value and transparency in labeling, and making the healthy choices the easiest and most attractive choices.

“We’re all consumers and can vote with our food dollars. Ask the questions, force industry to respond,” LaClair stated. “ If industry can’t sell GMOs and antibiotic-filled meats, they’ll stop.”

Speakers Rhonda Janke, Ph.D., of Kansas State Research and Extension, and Paul Johnson, public policy analyst for the Kansas Rural Center, provided an assessment of the Kansas food and farming system.

Dr. Janke critiqued the recent controversial Stanford analysis of 230 research studies on organically grown foods, citing several areas of flawed methodology and the exclusion of numerous research projects with organic-favorable results.

Both speakers pointed to data that shows that Kansas farmers produce only a small fraction of the fruits and vegetables that we consume -- a total market value of $767 million. Janke said that to feed ourselves the fruits and vegetables that can and do grow well here, we would need 121,000 acres of farmland near our population centers.

Johnson shared policy programs that are making a difference in other states, citing Michigan’s Good Food Charter, North Carolina’s Farm To Fork campaign, and Iowa’s Local Farm and Food Plan.

Both Janke and Johnson called for citizen and corporate action in Kansas, to change food and farming policy. Janke pointed out that only one food-related bill was proposed in Kansas this last session, and it was defeated.

“Kansas state senators and representatives need to learn what we know, and need to know we care.” Johnson also said, “Kansas needs a more comprehensive Food and Farm Policy, with emphasis on diet and health outcomes.”

Donn Teske, president of the Kansas Farmers Union, shared the history, status, and prospects for the Farm Bill and the agriculture committees in Washington. He questioned the claim that industrial agriculture is needed to feed the world. “Peasants still feed at least 70 percent of the world population.”

With an eye toward finding community food and farming solutions, attendees participated in a series of round table discussions, facilitated by Marci Penner of the Kansas Sampler Foundation. Topics included Local Food Policy Councils, Farm to School, Food Cost vs. Food Quality; Work Place Wellness, Local Food Business Development, Food Hubs and Infrastructure (Aggregation/ Distribution), Farmers Markets, Rural Groceries, Organics, and food assistance programs.

Participants were asked to make action commitments, which they recorded on postcards that will be mailed back to them in several months as reminders to check their progress. They were also asked, who was not at the summit that should be included? And what policy ideas could drive change? Their answers will be considered by the organizing team and funders as they consider follow-up activities from the summit.

In addition to KRC, organizers of the summit included the Kansas Health Institute, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Farmers Union, and Bon Appétit Harvest Café, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control through the National Network of Public Health Institutes, and additional support by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Foundation.

Jennifer Billig, of Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, and liaison for the national organizing team, explained that the summit was one of seven being held across the country to start conversations about the intersection of food, farming, health and public health. 


From the Executive Director

From the Executive Director: 
  Why KRC is Needed Now More than Ever 

    by Julie Mettenburg

This month, I celebrate my first year as Executive Director of the Kansas Rural Center. It doesn’t seem possible that a whole year has passed! We have been busy laying the foundation for a future that’s worthy of all the hard work that has come before.

You will read about many of the year’s accomplishments in this issue. We have achieved an unprecedented amount of quality programming for Kansas farmers and ranchers, from new publications to conferences to farm tours and work days. We helped galvanize the formation of new food and farming coalitions in communities around the state. And we engaged the public health community and others concerned about our agricultural system’s impact on our health -- a gratifying fulfillment of one of my first goals as Executive Director.

Organizationally, the board and staff have renovated the budget process at KRC and developed a new funding model to help build grassroots support. And we examined, clarified and re-dedicated to KRC’s mission to promote a food and farming system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially just.

Thus, KRC is poised to move forward to continue to provide a needed vision and voice for a sustainable Kansas agriculture and food system. And we are serious about strengthening that voice, in the face of well-funded opposition as well as the eternal funding challenges that all nonprofits face.

KRC- A Strong Voice and Vision.
Although I personally believe we may be reaching a tipping point in the larger food and farm movement, many days it is hard to see much progress.

•In the latest issue of Farm Journal, more than 25 percent of the advertising pages promoted powerful chemicals and “systems” to help farmers combat tougher weeds. But you and I both know why those weeds are tougher these days!

•At our “Healthy Farms, Healthy People” Agriculture & Health summit, we learned about the risk that non-therapeutic antibiotic use in animal production poses to our citizens’ health. Eliminating this practice for the good of our environment and our people will prove a tall order, considering the size and importance of the animal agriculture industry to our state, and its reliance on confinement feeding systems.

•This year’s presidential race virtually ignored climate change, while we Kansas farmers are experiencing the effects of extreme weather every day.

•In California, despite early and overwhelming support by the public, the measure to implement GMO labeling -- Proposition 37 -- was defeated in the wake of a deluge of negative messaging financed by Big Food.

•Meanwhile, here in Kansas, Big Oil is developing the controversial practice of horizontal drilling, with its accompanying environmental concerns, such as its competition for our water resources, and what to do with the wells’ salt-laden sludge.

•Early this year, our legislature relaxed rules on swine CAFO’s, making it more difficult for citizens to protest large corporate swine facility permits, despite our vocal opposition.

•And all of this occurs in the midst of implementation of our state’s new tax structure, expected to bring about a budgetary squeeze that is all but certain to further decimate the watchdog agencies.
Building a Bridge to the Future 
And yet there is good news. More people are gaining interest in these issues, as grassroots energies swell in communities across the state. Citizens are joining with farmers to work on solutions: organizing healthy food coalitions, farmers markets, environmental action groups, and new businesses to replace our dying rural groceries. Producers have reported that they are overwhelmed by the demand for their local and organic foods.

These farmers, citizens and grassroots groups are asking for our help -- but we need YOUR help to provide it.

KRC offers alternatives, whether helping established farms transition to organic, helping grow new vegetable producers, helping farms access new markets, or helping graziers or crop farmers implement more drought-resilient options. And farmers are interested: at our all-day organic forum at Salina in November, more than 70 farmers turned out -- double the number we expected. Other workshops to raise hoophouses or learn new grazing management strategies were also full of farmers and ranchers keen to learn about new opportunities and strategies.

In addition to the practical information, our Weekly E-Updates in our Policy Watch Project provide a unique, and much needed perspective on state legislative decisions, including the budget’s impact on education and rural schools, and on our most vulnerable citizens. In addition, the Updates keep readers up to date on the Farm Bill action or inaction.

As always, KRC is looking toward the future, and asking a critical question: Where are we most needed?

Given the pressures of extended drought, extreme heat, those “tough weeds” and increasing fossil fuel-based input costs, the challenges that farmers and ranchers face are immense. Some will focus only on the short-term view that sees seductive record corn prices along with a growing land price “bubble.” But others are seeking alternatives, a path that cultivates resilience in the face of changed environment.

The next few years will be critical investment years for KRC—and for your farms and ranches and our future as Kansans. Your financial and volunteer support will help KRC build a bridge to a better future for our state.

Just as the board, staff and volunteers of the Kansas Rural Center have re-dedicated ourselves to the mission of an ecologically sound, economically viable and socially just agriculture in Kansas, we hope you will, too.

Best Wishes for the New Year from all of us at KRC!

Small Farmer Commentary

Drought Year Ponderings 

    by Mary Fund

Late one Sunday afternoon in early December, we saw billowing clouds of smoke on the southern horizon of our farm. Given how incredibly dry it has been, we were alarmed, and jumped into the truck to race around the section to see what was going on. Surely no one would be crazy enough to set a fire on purpose.

And yet that is what we found.

The local fire department was burning an 80 acre field of former CRP ground so that the farmer could work the ground yet this fall, and plant it to corn or soybeans next spring.

It was a warm calm day, so there was not much danger of the fire escaping the field, but it still deeply disturbed me.

By all official reports, 2013 will see more of the same here in Kansas as far as drought goes. And yet, farmers are willing to gamble on the likelihood of rain in order to cash in on high grain prices.

Or is it just rain they rely on?

While in the above instance, I do not claim to know the specific farmer’s plan (and he is but one of many doing the same thing).  I am told that crop insurance plays a big role. I’ve heard stories about farmers buying poorer quality land in grass or brush, tearing these out to plant high priced corn or soybeans, and buying federally subsidized crop insurance which guarantees them a payment if they lose that crop due to drought or flood etc.

Sounds like poor public policy to me-- especially in a drought year or cycle. Subsidized crop insurance is intended to protect farmers from routine risks. But instead it appears to be encouraging many to take risks they might not otherwise take-- risks that will expose more than just the individual to loss.

In mid-November, not long before we saw the billowing smoke, Ken Burn’s documentary “The Dust Bowl” was aired on PBS. I am amazed at the number of old and young alike who were shocked at how bad the drought was in western and southwest Kansas and throughout the Plains. “We never knew it was so bad!”, they claimed. “So hard on young and old. So totally destructive! It can’t happen again, can it?”

While the topic of another Dust Bowl happening is fodder for a future article, I fear that the actions of those who tear out grassland to plant crops for short term profit reflects that same lack of historical memory. “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

My father was a storyteller. So while growing up, I heard lots about the Dirty Thirties and the Depression and yes, the drought. When my son was home from college over Thanksgiving, he unearthed a copy of an interview he’d done for high school with his Grandmother about the Dust Bowl. Ken Burns documentary- impressive. Personal interview- priceless.

This holiday season as families, friends and neighbors gather, take the opportunity to ask about the Dust Bowl. Ask your grandparents, older aunts and uncles, and older neighbors about the 1930’s and what they experienced. Learn from history.

And, oh yes, talk to your Congressman about conservation compliance for subsidized crop insurance, and putting caps on those insurance subsidies.
(Mary Fund, editor of Rural Papers, farms with her husband in Nemaha County.) 

Our Local Food Announcement

Kansas Rural Center Transfers Local Food Program
  to Kansas Department of Agriculture 

In mid-December, the Kansas Rural Center (KRC) and the Kansas Department of Agriculture announced that the state agency will take over administration of “Our Local Food,” a project developed by the Kansas Rural Center.

“After several hard years of work establishing the need for and user platforms for this brand, we are thrilled to see the program taken up by our state agriculture agency,” said Julie Mettenburg, executive director of the Kansas Rural Center. “This will be an important next step in growing our local foods infrastructure in Kansas, as farmers, consumers and food businesses receive more support in growing their local food economies and businesses.”

Mettenburg said that KRC will continue to work in local foods issues, such as its current role as a partner in Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative and in sponsoring other producer education and outreach opportunities.

“We will continue to promote the OLF program, while seeking to work on the next important needs in local food systems development in our state,” she said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, KDA will take over ownership and administration of the OLF brandmark, promotional materials and website, In addition, KDA will assume ownership and responsibility for These programs have been purchased by KDA from the KRC through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, to promote growth in the production, consumption and sales of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Our Local Food program will join the state trademark program for Kansas products and will specifically promote Kansas-grown fresh fruits and vegetables.

“The Our Local Food program will give us additional options for promoting, assisting and supporting producers, food businesses and consumers across the state,” said Sarah Green, local foods and rural outreach coordinator for KDA. “The Kansas Department of Agriculture is committed to supporting the entire spectrum of Kansas agriculture, which is our state’s largest industry.”

The centerpiece of Our Local Food is the website, which serves as an online “food hub” for Kansans looking to sell or purchase locally grown produce and other farm goods. KRC launched the program in 2010 in several counties in northeast Kansas; in 2011 it expanded into three regions — the Kaw River Valley, or Lawrence-Kansas City region, the Twin Rivers, or Emporia region, and the South Central, or Wichita-Hutchinson region. In 2012, it expanded statewide, including to counties in the Southeast region.

The regional chapters will be phased out of the program, and attention turned to recruiting producers across the state. Interested consumers, producers or food businesses may sign-up for the program by visiting ourlocalfood

Mettenburg said the transfer of the OLF program and websites was a testament to KRC’s long history of work in local food systems.

“KRC has served as a pioneer in the agricultural community, listening to the needs of our farmers and rural Kansans and initiating important conversations,” she says. “Our work in local food goes back to our early days, and includes our leadership of the Kansas Food Policy Council. KDA’s further promotion of this program is a major indicator of just how important local foods will be in the future to our state economy and rural community development.”

Policy News

Keep Up with the State Legislature and More in 2013

Will Kansas try once again to ease rules on important issues, as they did last year on CAFO’s and fracking? How will our tax system changes shape up and potentially impact our state’s services and rural communities? When will we get a Farm Bill out of Washington -- and when we do, will it support sustainable agriculture, diversified farms and rural communities?

Once again in 2013, the Kansas Rural Center will send our policy analyst, Paul Johnson, to Topeka to report every week from the State Legislature about issues and action that are important to our rural communities, our environment, and our food and farming system. Plus, we’ll be monitoring activity in Washington through our participation in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. And we’ll be sending those reports out to you, in our weekly “Policy Watch E-Update” electronic newsletter, direct to your in-box.

Make sure you’re on KRC’s list to receive this important e-News. You won’t want to miss any of this info, much of which is not covered any-where else -- and certainly not with our level of depth and perspective.

If you’ve donated to our 2013 Annual Giving Campaign -- with a donation since November 1, 2012 -- you’re automatically on the list (if we have your updated e-mail address!)

If you have not already donated, please consider doing so. We are asking for a minimum $35 donation to help us support Kansas farmers in sustainable agriculture and a sustainable food system for all Kansans.

As our thanks to you, we’ll provide both the Rural Papers and Policy Watch Weekly E-Updates.

To ensure that you receive the electronic Weekly Updates from our Policy Watch Project, send in your contribution to KRC, and sign- up today by contacting Mary Fund at

Back issues of the Weekly E-Updates are available on our website at

For more information Contact Mary Fund at or 785-873-3431.

2012 Farm Bill: A When and If Story
   by Mary Fund

Hopes for passage of a full five year Farm Bill quickly evaporated after Congress came back to town post-election, as the attention turned to the biggest game in town-- the end of the year “fiscal cliff” drama of tax increases and draconian automatic budget cuts.

Commitment to working out the differences between the Senate and House versions established last summer does not exist-- at least not in the usual way where the House would vote on its bill and there would be a conference committee to work out the differences.

Instead, as this goes to press mid-December, Agriculture Committee leadership from both House and Senate, or the Gang of Four, are meeting to hammer out a full Farm Bill, that they think will mesh with possible resolutions to the “fiscal cliff”.

The Gang of Four, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ranking Member Sen. Pat Roberts, (R-Ks.), and House Agricul-ture Committee Chair Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking member Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) are said to be making progress on finding a compromise between the House Committee-passed bill and Senate passed versions. The House Ag Committee cut $32 billion including $16 billion from Food Stamps, and the Senate version cut $23 billion with $4 billion from Food Stamps. Both contained various pieces of the non-commodity and nutrition provisions that sustainable agriculture advocates support, but both cut conservation programs.

This comes as the White House and House leadership continue to spar over the lines each have drawn in the sand over solutions to the looming tax increases and budget cuts. But chances are that if there is an agreement, a new farm bill could be absorbed into the overall budget bill that would avoid the fiscal cliff.

But that is a big IF.

Others argue that, barring the fiscal cliff solution, an extension of the old Farm Bill with direction to the Agriculture committees to cut a certain amount (probably within $23 to $35 billion) from the overall budget by a certain date in 2013, is the most likely.

As we have pointed out in earlier articles, some programs that expired September 30 (rural development, beginning farmer, organic cost-share and research, value added, renewable on -farm energy, etc.) will need specific inclusion in an extension if they are to not suffer a further gap in program administration and funding while a full farm bill is being re-debated. Reforms to commodity programs and crop insurance also could begin in an extension-- if specifically included.

Also under a simple extension, disaster provisions for the livestock and fruit sectors would not be possible in 2013 unless the extension is modified to include them.

So the big question remains who will do what, and when and if any action will take place-- on either the Farm Bill or the fiscal cliff, or both together.

I seriously hope this article is moot by the time it is printed, as that means someone somewhere took the steps needed to move us out of this what-if limbo. 

Sustainable Farming News: KGA Conference and Organic Farming Forum

Kansas Graziers Association Winter Conference
 Set for January 19, 2013

      The Kansas Graziers Association (KGA) Winter Conference will be held Saturday, January 19, 2013, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Courtyard Mariott Hotel in Salina, Ks.   “Back to the Basics of Grazing Management” is the theme for this year’s conference. 

   “With so many new people interested in grazing management or wanting information on how to manage drought stressed pastures, we thought a full day of state experts on a number of critical topics was the best idea,” stated KGA secretary Mary Howell.

Speakers will include David Kraft, and Dwayne Rice, Kansas based USDA NRCSRangeland Management Specialists. Kraft will address   drought management, and Rice will compare conventional grazing to MIG (management intensive grazing) and mob grazing.  Gary Kilgore, retired KSU grass and forages specialist, will discuss soil health and fertility in grazing systems, and Dale Strickler, rancher educator, will cover plant physiology, forage options, and extending the grazing season. Rancher Ted Alexander will also lead a rancher/farmer panel on drought planning and general questions on grazing.

   Registration fees are $50 for the first person per ranch, and $35 for a second person.  Student registration is $25. The Courtyard Mariott is located at 3020 Riffel Drive, Salina, Ks., at the Schilling Road Exit from I-135.

  Check the KRCwebsite at for registration forms and information, or contact Mary Howell at or 785-562-8726 or call the KRCoffice at 785-873-3431.

   Cosponsors are Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops, and Kansas Farmers Union.

   KGA is sponsoring a social at the conference headquarters starting at 7 p.m. Friday night January 18 for those coming to Salina the night before. 

Dr. Michel Cavigelli, USDA ARS Farming Systems Project
Leader, spoke to about 70 organic, transitional
and conventional farmers at the forum.

Organic Farming Opportunities and Benefits
Highlighted at Forum

     “Dollars for organic research exist because of all of you,” Dr. Michel Cavigelli, USDA ARS lead scientist for the Farming Systems Program told the crowd at a recent forum on organic farming in Salina, Ks. 

   About 70 organic farmers, transitional or beginning farmers and a number of conventional farmers and non-farming landowners gathered to listen to Cavigelli’s overview of organic research across the country, as well as to learn more about organic cropping systems, certification, marketing opportunities, and USDA NRCS resources for organic.

   Cavigelli was referring to the growing farmer interest and consumer demand for organic products, and to the funds included in the past couple of farm bills dedicated to organic research needs.  Organic production is one of the fastest growing sectors within agriculture averaging about 18 to 20% per year the past 15 years. While research funds have not grown proportionately, forum participants learned that USDA and a few universities around the country have still been able to establish some important long- term studies and begin collecting base data. 

   Cavigelli and others spoke at the daylong forum organized by the Kansas Rural Center, and cosponsored by the Kansas Organic Producers Marketing Association, and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops.

   All farming systems manage ecological processes to provide ecosystem services, Cavigelli explained. These services include food production, regulating of water quality, pests, and climate, and supporting soil retention and nutrient cycling.  Soil organic matter is the new buzzword in agronomy and conservation circles, largely due to concerns about soil health and carbon sequestration.

    Soil organic matter, stated Cavigelli, provides ecosystems services of increasing fertility, stabilizing soils to prevent erosion, helping control some pests, increasing carbon sequestration, and building system resilience in all agricultural systems. But organic farming, he explained, does all this without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms.  “Improving organic matter and soil health have long been the foundation of organic farming systems.”

   “Organic farming systems have a mean carbon sequestration rate similar to no till systems,” he stated. While quick to acknowledge that more research is needed because the sites were not set up for one-to one comparison, organic systems fixed carbon in the soil at rates equal or higher than no till, especially at lower soil profiles at five long term agriculture research sites (LIARS).  In addition to the carbon benefits, 
organic systems also can have erosion or loss rates comparable to no till despite the tillage used in organic, although reduced tillage or no till within organic systems had better results than organic with tillage.

    As for yields, organic yields are on average lower than conventional systems—about 85 to 90% of conventional yields on average in all of the LIAR sites. But a closer look at the research has shown that the longer rotation systems (i.e. a six year rotation such as a corn followed by a fall rye cover crop, then soybeans, followed by wheat and then 3 years of alfalfa) brought crop yields closer to conventional averages. The longer term rotations also showed better weed control and lower soil erosion.

   Cavigelli pointed to organic farming’s research needs and challenges: improve manure management, integrate cover crops and perennial forages, and reducing tillage. “We have learned, “ stated Cavigelli, “ that you must pay as much attention to the cover crop as to the cash crop.”

   Crop rotations and soil building legume's and manure management practices were emphasized by Ed Reznicek, organic farmer and General Manager of the Kansas Organic Producers Association, as he outlined the challenges and opportunities in organic field crop production. Ib Hagsten, independent certified organic inspector, laid out the basics of organic certification.  If you are averse to record keeping, then organic farming is probably not for you, he advised.

   “Demand for organic crops surpasses the available supply,” stated Rodger Schneider, Kansas Organic Producers Association Marketing Director.  “About 60% of the organic soybeans processed in this country are imported from China or India.  That is opportunity for Kansas farmers.”  While conventional crop prices are at all time highs, premiums for organic crops have climbed too.  “We need more organic farmers to meet the product demand.”
   USDA official numbers for certified organic farmers nationally was under 12,000 with 400 million in sales in 2002.  By 2011, the number was nearly 13,000 with $3.5 billion in sales.   The official numbers for organic farmers certified in Kansas ranges from 83 to 167, depending on which set of data you are looking at and which definitions of organic farmer they used.  Numbers for surrounding states such as Iowa and Nebraska are much higher (Iowa 677 and Nebraska 211), according to USDA.

  Lyle Frees, Resource Conservationist, with the USDA NRCS office in Salina described how the EQIP Organic Initiative can help transitioning or existing organic farmers.  The NRCS program is there to provide cost-share assistance to transitioning organic farmers in adopting conservation practices (such as crop rotations, cover crops, nutrient management, grazing management, etc.) to facilitate the transition, and to help existing organic farmers in adopting needed conservation measures.  Each county should have a staff person who participated in the organic training workshops coordinated by the Kansas Rural Center and State NRCS office in 2010 and 2011.
   A range of farmers attended the meeting coming from all parts of the state and some from Nebraska and Northwest Missouri. 

   At the beginning of the day forum organizer Mary Fund told the group, “This is exactly what we wanted to see today—a broad spectrum of experienced organic farmers and transitional or beginning farmers or just curious conventional farmers.  I don’t want to downplay what you will learn from the speakers today, but what you’ll learn from each other will be just as important.”

About a third of those attending were currently certified organic farmers, another third were land-owners or non-organic farmers interested in learning more, and about a quarter were beginning or transitional organic farmers. Following the forum, Fund said, “98 percent of those responding to our forum evaluation asked for additional regional or local education and information meetings.  KRC is going to see what we can do to help make that happen.”

   Presentations from the forum are posted on KRC’s website at www.

   The Forum was partly funded by a grant from the National Center for Appropriate Technology via a USDA NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant. 


Local Food News

 Niche Marketing Guide Available for Kansas Farmers

   Farm producers interested in selling their goods into local, niche and direct markets will have a new resource this month when the Kansas Rural Center’s “Finding Your Niche: A Marketing Guide for Kansas Farms” rolls off the press. 

   Packed with more than 150 pages of information, tips, resources, links and profiles, the guide has been a labor of love for KRC’s Our Local Food program team. Funding for the project was provided by the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Kansas Department of Agriculture and by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

   The Guide provides information for farms producing a wide range of products, from specialty crops to livestock products, honey, aquaculture and more. Topics include how to set prices, develop a wholesale business with restaurants and institutions, set-up online marketing, and more. The Guide also includes a special section for beginning farmers.

   Cole Cottin, OLF-Kaw River Valley coordinator for KRC this year, served as editor of the guide, and said it is intended for experienced farmers and aspiring farmers alike. “If you are interested in selling farm products of any kind to local or regional markets, this guide is for you!"

   The guide will be available at the Kansas Rural Center web site. Or, you may order a print copy while supplies last by e-mailing your full contact information -- including address and phone number -- to or call 785-873-3431. A donation to KRC to help cover shipping and handling costs, and to help continue our work with Kansas farmers in sustainable agriculture, is appreciated.

   The guide is in production now and expected to be printed by December 31.

Local Connections Workshop Draws Farms, Food Businesses, and Locavores

by Natalie Fullerton

   Fifty-six people attended the November 10 “Local Food Connections Workshop” held in Wichita, Kansas.The workshop focused on networking, marketing, and locating local food in south central Kansas. Those in attendance included farms, food businesses, and locavores looking to start or expand marketing and purchasing locally sourced food.

   Breakout sessions, comprised of ten different presentations, brought in speakers ranging from a chef Michael Beard, owner of 715 Restaurant in Lawrence, KS using a nose-to-tail meat use approach in his restaurant to Paula Miller, a dietitian offering advice on how to find and use local food in Kansas.

    Other speakers included: Rebecca McMahon, Sedgwick Count Extension Agent who presented on “Planning Crops for Consistent Yields;” Brady Krueger, Krueger Insurance, “Liability Insurance for Market Farms;” Pam Paulsen, Reno County Extension Agent, “Post-Harvest Handling for Produce;” Brian Phillips, Store Operations Manager for The Merc in Lawrence, “Local Food as a Marketing Tool”; Cherie Schenker, owner of Schenker Family Farms “Regulations of Buying & Selling Animal Products” and “Niche Livestock Marketing;” and Tracey Graham, Our Local Food-Twin Rivers Coordinator “Eating by the Calendar in Kansas” and “Preserving the Harvest.”

    A local food buyers and sellers panel shared their experiences. Challenges to buying and selling local food and how to overcome them, how far in advance connections with farms or businesses need to be made, important regulations and resources were a a few of the topics addressed.

    The workshop concluded with keynote speaker, Diana Endicott, founder and president of Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF). The company is a pioneering alliance of over 160 family farms within a 200 mile radius of the Kansas City metro area. Endicott manages the company’s many facets including sales to area grocery stores, a workplace wellness CSA which services employees at companies in the Kansas City community, a partnership with Bistro Kids to bring a farm to school program in eight Kansas City metro YMCA Head Starts, and Good Natured Market at Harvest Learning Center, a non-profit grocery store in Kansas City’s Ivanhoe neighborhood. Endicott discussed her current and future endeavors with the company and filled the room with excitement about the opportunities local food can provide for small farms and businesses.

Marketing Discussion Aims to Move Lawrence Forward 

      by Cole Cottin

    Niche marketing and under-tapped markets for farms was the discussion topic at a monthly Growing Lawrence ( meeting on November 6.

    Participants were surveyed about types of wholesale or direct-to-consumer markets they are already selling farm products to. Nearly all were currently selling through multiple marketing outlets, primarily farmers markets, restaurants, and/or grocery stores. Several farms also sold through community supported agriculture (CSA) or on farm sales. Very few attendees were engaged in selling through internet, food distributors, caterers, or institutions (such as schools and hospitals).

    Following the survey, discussion focused on the benefits and challenges of selling to various market outlets. Participants addressed issues of scaling-up to meet growing demands for higher volumes of farm products. Ideas for the way forward included:

    *Saving on overhead expenses through the creation of an agricultural production co-operative for purchasing farm inputs (such as fertility irrigation supplies) and sharing farm equipment (such as a grain mill, or root washer);

    * Labor-savings through the creation of a agricultural marketing co-operative and/or “food hub” – to increase efficiency of local food distribution by aggregating and delivering higher volumes of farm products from multiple farms to a broader range of marketing outlets;

    *Exploring options for opening a food processing facility that could take raw local food products and process them into the types of foods needed by institutions, such as schools, that may not have access to equipment or labor for accomplishing food processing themselves.

    As a follow-up to the identified need for collaboration, Growing Lawrence’s December 4th meeting will center around sharing resources, such as seed catalogues, equipment catalogs, or other farm related resources with the group. Growing Lawrence meetings are open and free to the public and take place on the first Tuesday of every month, from 7:00am to 8:00am at the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce (7th and Vermont). 

Rural Brainstorm Sparks Discussion in Northeast Kansas
      by Jamie Dysart

    One woman is taking the initiative to sustain rural communities, while letting the younger rural generation who are “rural by choice” have an active voice in their communities.

    Marci Penner, the director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation and the author of “8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook”, was the facilitator of the Northeast Kansas Big Rural Brain-storm (BRB), which was held November 12 at the Holton Evangel United Methodist Church.

    The BRB brought local citizens of Northeast Kansas together to discuss issues of living rural and how to solve their concerns, in hopes to have “collective brilliance”.

    “If we are all the same, we will always have the same thoughts,” said Penner. Penner explained the “power up movement”, which includes six divisions of agriculturists. These groups include the “power ups” who are people between the ages of 21-39 who are rural by choice and struggle with the connotation that “rural isn’t cool,” Penner said, while “sparks” are people under 21 who add good energy to community spirit.

    “Power Ons” are ages 40 and older who are passionate about rural living, she said. Citizens 80 years and older, Penner said, who are still offering positive input in the community are known as “super powers”.

    She said, “power generators” include those who live in bigger cities, but work to better rural communities, while “rural enthusiasts” are comprised of people who live anywhere and are supportive of rural Kansas.

     When Penner traveled Kansas to do research for her book she went to all 626 incorporated towns. She said half of those towns had less than 400 citizens. Those 313 towns only thrived when they accepted the voice of young people, Penner said, “Those were the towns that had the most ‘explorer value’.”

    Discussion groups were asked to answer the question of how well northeast Kansas is connected, and how can we communicate better ? “Before we can communicate in a region, you must communicate in your town,” Penner said.

    Penner introduced the “We Kan! Bank” to the BRB group. This is a system that matches community needs with those who can donate services, labor or money, she said. Everyone participated in the exercise of posting their accounts of service and their towns accounts of needs, and later could look at these to find out if they could help someone or if a services would be beneficial to a community need.

    Teresa McAnerney, a facilitator at the Northeast Kansas Enterprise Facilitation, said she is surprised at the amount of resources there is in a community and the willingness of people to work together. Courtney Schmelzie, Seneca Chamber of Commerce, said she is excited about the community involvement especially in the “power ups”. With almost 60 people in attendance at the northeast Kansas BRB only eight people were “power ups”. Penner said that the results of other BRBs are a lot different when there are more “power ups” in attendance.

    At the end of the BRB everyone wrote down how they can help sustain rural northeast Kansas on their “This is my Rural Action” card, and was encouraged keep working on it when they went home.

    “We need to fight for what we need, “said Penner, “if we don’t say what we need, it will not get done.”  
      (Jamie Dysart is a senior in agriculture communications at Kansas State University.) 


Report on Coexistence of GMO's and Organic
 Sharply Criticized

In mid-November, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) released its recommendations regarding transgenic contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered crops. The Committee was charged by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack with developing practical recommendations strengthening coexistence among different agricultural production methods.

   The National Organic Coalition, a national alliance of organizations representing organic farmers, environmentalists and organic industry, sharply condemned the recommendations.   Of particular concern in the report is the recommendation that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay for crop insurance or self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination.

    NOC strongly asserts that this proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victim of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination. “The AC21 report takes responsibility for GE contamination prevention out of the hands of USDA and the biotech industry where it belongs and puts it squarely on the backs of organic and non-GE farmers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety and a NOC member. “This ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem – transgenic contamination.” 

   The underlying assumption of USDA’s work plan for the committee was that as long as farmers are adequately compensated, GE contamination is a permissible and acceptable cost of doing business for organic and non-GE farmers. NOC has rejected this assumption, as did several members of the AC21. According to NOC,  the committee’s final report failed to make a single recommendation holding the patent holders of genetic engineering technologies responsible and liable for damages caused by its use.

   The report can be viewed 

"Plowed Under" Report Documents Loss of Habitat and Grassland

      Between 2008 and 2011, more than 23 million acres of grassland, shrub-land and wetlands were plowed under in order to plant commodity crops, according to a recently released report by the Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife.  The plow down is in response to high crop prices and unlimited crop insurance, according to EWG, and  signals a need for public policy such as payment limits on crop insurance  premiums and requiring conservation practices.

   The analysis uses U.S. Department of Agriculture satellite data to produce the most accurate estimate currently available of the rate of habitat conversion in the farm belt. It shows that more than 8.4 million acres were converted to plant corn, more than 5.6 million to raise soybeans and nearly 5.2 million to grow winter wheat. Most of the destroyed habitat was in states in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest.

   The report contains maps showing grassland, shrub land and wetlands converted to crops  including counties in Kansas. To view the report go to:

NRCS Launches Soil Health Initiative

In October, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a national initiative to highlight the benefits of healthy soils.  “By focusing more attention on soil health and by educating our customers and the public about the positive impact healthy soils can have on productivity and conservation, we can help our Nation’s farmers and ranchers feed the world more profitably and sustainably – now and for generations to come” states the website.

   At the initiative’s launch in Ohio, NRCS Chief Dave White explained that there are four keys to “unlock the secrets of the soil.” First, you want to increase the diversity above the ground to increase the life diversity below the ground,” said White. “You want to keep the soil covered as much as possible, you want to have a living root in the soil and you really want to optimize the inputs you put in.”

    For more information visit the NRCS website at  
or talk to your local conservation district. 

Oct 21, 2012

RURAL PAPERS NO. 245 September-October 2012

Table of Contents

1) Small Farmer Commentary: Consideration of the Wild Cards

2) Brief:
 Crop Insurance May cost Taxpayers

3) Brief: More Weed Resistance, More Pesticides Used

4) Brief:
Study Finds GM Corn, Round Up Linked to Tumors and Organ Damage

5) Brief: Stanford Organic Study Criticized

6) Policy News: Farm Bill Uncertain

7) Workshop Focuses on Water and Fencing As Drought Intensifies

8) Organic Farming Forum Set for November 13 in Salina

9) Agriculture and Health Summitt Planned for November 16 in Topeka

10) Strategic Marketing Workshop Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

11) Community Organizes on Food Issues

12) Grazing School Covers MIG Benefits to Livestock, Soil and Plant Health, and

13) Events


Small Farmer Commentary: 
     Consideration of the Wild Cards 

by Mary Fund 

Cooler temperatures and the colors of the fall landscape help us forget the extremes of the summer, even if we have not yet had the rains that would signal recovery or back to normal. Unfortunately, the political and economic landscape is much the same— it is uncertain and may prove as extreme as the weather.

Everyone hopes their vote will signal a return to the safety and surety of days gone by. Many are adamantly sure of their candidates and the path forward. But the world is a changing and increasingly complicated place, and regardless of who is elected, solving problems requires us to work together to meet new challenges—not something we have done very well the past few years. Solving problems also requires us to face certain realities and ask tough questions—another casualty of an ever more polarized populace and political leadership.

Frankly, I don’t see any “back to normal” for weather, economics or politics anytime soon. And unfortunately, these all have a major impact on the future of food production and natural resources, and our communities, our lives.

Despite their importance, there has been a general lack of focus on food, agriculture and climate issues in the major campaigns. Sure there are ample stories about the farm bill limbo we find ourselves in (and stories of both sides blaming the other for that). You can find the obligatory candidate-views of agriculture and energy policy in the mainstream ag press. But the politics of food, water and climate are largely no man’s land when it comes to responsible debate and discussion.

Surveys indicate that for farmers and ranchers, talking about climate change is a dead end. The majority don’t believe it, and if they do, they certainly don’t want to hear that they are contributing. And they darn sure don’t want their actions to be regulated. Surveys of the general public indicate that belief in climate change is on the upswing—and this was before the weather extremes and news of accelerated Arctic ice melts of the past summer. I myself have heard farmers and ranchers expressing more doubts about their previous denials after the second year of weather extremes. Yet, the politicians and decision makers play to fears and stick our head in the sand platitudes.

On other food and farming fronts, we hear conflicting stories or we hear nothing at all. Although the direction of Big Agriculture remains full throttle on genetically modified seed and products, studies pointing to problems with GMO’s keep popping up.

A recent French study of the impact on rats given a diet of GMO corn, or given water containing Roundup at levels allowed in our drinking water, found that the rats suffered from tumors and kidney and liver damage—pointing to a need for more research on the health impacts of GMO’s. Emergence of herbicide resistant weeds also creates increasing problems for GMOs; and carry over of herbicides hinders adoption of conservation minded cover crops on farms. All but buried studies of the impacts of GMO crops on soil microbiology raises questions of overall soil health and what long term damage are we inflicting? These are the wild cards of modern agriculture.

Facing certain realities and asking the right questions—real consideration of climate change impacts on agriculture and the impact of our technological fixes like GMO’s -- changes where the money goes (i.e. research, tax credits, farm programs, etc.) But change that is forced upon us by mistakes or disaster is far more painful than if we plan for it.

Farming and food production has always been about adaptation, and whether we accept climate change or not, or question the impact of GMO crops on our soil and personal health, farmers already find themselves adapting. Whether planting earlier in the spring because of warmer spring weather, double cropping behind those early harvests, planting more winter wheat or other small grains to hedge bets on another dry year, planting forage crops to provide fall and extended season pasture to offset hay losses due to drought, or constructing hoophouses with shade cloth and irrigation to produce fruits and vegetables—it is all about adaptation. All of these changes increase diversity on the farm, and in nature, diversity means survival.

Whether or not our politicians and leaders want to honestly look at the problems and issues facing our food, farming, climate and energy future, producers and consumers may be well ahead of them. There will always be wild cards, but asking questions and joining in a continued conversation about these and other issues is critical for a better future. 

BRIEFS: Crop Insurance May Cost Taxpayers


A recently released working paper from the American Enterprise Institute found that future crop insurance may cost the American taxpayer dearly. Findings showed the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Supplementary Coverage Option (SCO) programs proposed in the House version of the 2012 farm bill could cost taxpayers over $20 billion annually (or four times the current cost of the direct payment programs which the PLC would replace). Cost depends on what crop prices do in the future. If prices remain high, program costs would be $1.1 billion per year. If they drop to historical averages, insurance costs climb to nearly $20 billion.

The study also found that the pro-grams would disproportionately subsidize certain crops, specifically rice and peanuts. With subsidies tied to farm acreage, the PLC and SCO programs would be new and potentially very lucrative entitlement programs that would provide the greatest benefits to the largest farmers. (See

BRIEFS: More Weed Resistance, More Pesticide Use

A recently published study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook finds that the use of herbicides in the production of three genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops - cotton, soybeans and corn - has actually increased. This finding is based on an exhaustive analysis of publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agriculture Statistics Service.

Benbrook’s analysis is the first peer-reviewed, published estimate of the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant (HT) crops on pesticide use.

In the study, Benbrook writes that the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is strongly correlated with the increase in herbicide use. Marketed as Roundup and other trade names, glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide. Approximately 95 percent of soybean and cotton acres, and more than 85 percent of corn, are planted to varieties genetically modified to be herbicide resistant.

"Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and they are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said.

The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011.

Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in the first few years of use, Benbrook's analysis shows, but over-reliance may have led to shifts in weed communities and the spread of resistant weeds that force farmers to increase herbicide application rates (especially glyphosate), spray more often and add new herbicides that work through an alternate mode of action into their spray programs.

A detailed summary of the study's major findings, "Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. - the first sixteen years,” is available online at

BRIEFS: Study Finds GM Corn, Roundup Cause Tumors


The first animal feeding trial studying the life-time effects of exposure to Roundup tolerant corn, and Roundup herbicide shows that levels currently considered safe can cause tumors and multiple organ damage and lead to premature death in laboratory rats. The study was published online in the scientific journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

Conducted at the University of Caen, France, researchers found that rats fed a diet containing a strain of Roundup tolerant GM corn, or given water containing Roundup at levels permitted in the U.S., died earlier than rats fed on a standard diet. They suffered mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage.

Researchers claim the study suggests that licensed GM crops should be re-evaluated and that in the future, safety studies in laboratory animals must be conducted over significantly longer periods of time that are equal to their normal life span and not just their adolescence.” (From The Organic and Non-GMO Reporter, October 2012. Learn more about the Organic and Non-GMO REporter at

BRIEFS:Stanford Organic Study

Stanford Organic Study Criticized by Scientists 
A recently released study by Stanford University that found organic food had no significantly higher nutritional value than conventionally produced food created ripples through-out the consumer and research world. Findings of the study also said that organic vegetables and fruits do have considerably less pesticide residues and that organic meat contained considerably lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional meats. But the media pounced on the easy headline of “little evidence of health benefits from organic foods”.

According to researchers who reviewed the study and the same materials reviewed in the study, the Stanford researchers failed to include several benefits of organic foods. According to Charles Benbrook, Washington State University research professor, these include a reduction in pesticide induced changes during fetal and childhood development, and a health balance of omega-6 and -3 fatty acids in organic dairy and meat products.

Jim Riddle, organic outreach coordinator at the University of Minnesota, also said the Stanford researchers overlooked the documented beneficial benefits of organic farming on water sources, and other multiple benefits of organic farming to farmers, farm workers, and rural residents.

Riddle concludes that the “most favorable outcome of the study is that is has opened up a conversation about the multiple benefits of organic production and the need for expanded research.”

For a copy of Benbrook's response, go to, What’s New Column.
For Riddle's full reponse, click here.

POLICY NEWS: Farm Bill Uncertain


        By Mary Fund

The federal farm bill expired September 30 with no fanfare or immediately discernable impacts, and without passage of a new 2012 farm bill. This is unprecedented, but then again, a farm bill has never come up for renewal during a presidential election year. The perceived lack of impact, though, is not accurate.

   True, commodity program changes won’t begin until January 2013, and the food and nutrition program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) continues to assist the nation’s vulnerable population as Congress saw to it that its authority was part of the just-passed Continuing Resolution that keeps government running through March 2013. Crop insurance, the new sacred cow of agricultural policy, is not technically part of the farm bill, as it is authorized under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, so remains unaffected. 

   While current commodity program payments are covered until the end of 2012 with some payments being made in 2013, any bill passed now, whether in the lame duck session or by a new Congress next year, will make big changes in commodity crop programs—based on those proposed by both House and Senate in their respective versions of a farm bill.  Administratively those changes don’t happen quickly or easily, and farmers (and their bankers or credit providers) need time to make decisions. So the longer the limbo, the greater the impact and the greater the confusion.

   Conservation programs present a mixed bag. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and its sub-programs and special initiatives, should continue normal enrollments due to an earlier extension of their program authority to 2014. The just passed Continuing Resolution, which keeps government running, provides continued funding for EQIP – albeit at a lower level than before, but funding.   But the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), while also authorized to 2014, only has funds to pay for existing contracts but not enough to pay for any new ones.  Until Congress takes action, new enrollments to CSP are on hold.

   The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have acres remaining under the acreage cap of the 2008 farm bill. But the legal authority for all of these expired September 30, so according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), there can’t be new enrollments until Congress passes a new farm bill, extends the current farm bill or extends these authorities in a continuing resolution or final appropriations bill. Payments and maintenance of existing contracts is allowed.

    Additional programs important to building a better food and farm future are also impacted by the lack of a new farm bill.  The past two farm bills (2002 and 2008) included programs and funding beyond the traditional food stamps, commodity subsidies, and conservation. Programs impacted, according to NSAC, include: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Conservation Reserve Program- Transition Incentive Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, National Organic Certification Pro-gram, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, Rural Energy for America Program, Specialty Crop Research Initiative, and the Value Added Producer Grant Program.

    These programs continue to exist on paper, but after October 1 have no renewed funding; and will remain so until after Congress takes action on a new farm bill, or extends the current bill. Without these programs, beginning farmer training opportunities and minority farmer assistance programs dry up. Microloans and training for very small businesses end. Researchers will not be able to get dedicated funding for organic or fruit and vegetable research. Funds to help move expiring CRP land into the hands of beginning farmers ends. Incentives to create sustainable biofuels based on perennial crops will end.

    In short, programs to create jobs related to food (not commodity crops), renewable energy and improved production and access to healthy food are on hold and may not be restored.

Furthermore, there are programs that like the above- mentioned conservation programs (CRP, GRP, and WRP), have funds but lack the authority to spend them. These include programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

    While many of the above “non-traditional” programs have been included in both the Senate and House versions of the new Farm Bill, their fate is uncertain. Will there funding be restored? And will they be included in the new bill?

    Indeed, the fate of the farm bill during the lame duck session is uncertain. Will Congress come together and work out a compromise bill by the end of the year?   Or will Congress work out an extension of the current bill with some modifications until spring, summer or fall 2013? This option means the new Congress beginning in January 2013 starts the farm bill process all over again. 

    Add to all this the questions surrounding major issues also before Congress before the end of the year (tax issues and  deficit reduction/fiscal cliff), and the already thick fog of the farm bill’s future gets thicker. But whether there is an extension (short or long) or a full bill, all of the farm programs should be included. This is not a time to abandon newer important programs that aim to establish a next generation of farmers and ranchers, answer critical production questions for specialty crops, organic practices, and biofuels, and ensure access to healthy food for urban and rural citizens alike. 
    (With help from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). For ongoing information on farm bill developments, go to: