Feb 27, 2012

RURAL PAPERS NO. 242 January-February 2012


5) Our Local Food News: Meet Cole Cottin
2012 Savor the Season Launched

6) Federal Policy Update: 2012 Farm Bill Hearings Begin
White House Budget Disappointing for Natural Resources and Small Farmers

Multiple Issues to Impact Rural Communities, Family Farms, & the Environment

By Paul Johnson and Mary Fund

Redistricting, tax reform, the state budget, immigration policy, corporate farming, and "fracking" are all topics under discussion at the Kansas Statehouse this session. All have great potential to impact agriculture, the environment and rural communities, and set the stage for further erosion of power in rural communities and a reduction of environmental protection.

The Governor and his administration are publicly recruiting development of large agricultural operations and "horizontal fracturing" oil and natural gas wells. Funding for environmental budgets and staff have been reduced in recent years, leaving the questions: will there be a balance between development and environmental protection? and what steps if any will be taken to encourage farmers in anything but the industrial corporate model? and what will happen to our communities ?

KRC is reporting on these issues through its Legislative and Policy Watch Program with Paul Johnson monitoring several key issues. Paul provides a Weekly E-Update online. Register to receive these updates by e-mailing ksrc@rainbowtel.net . Below are summaries of several issues KRC is following.

Budget and Tax Reform. The Legislature has to complete a budget for 2013 by the end of the session. While the revenue picture for the state has improved, cuts to programs made in the past year leave state programs hard pressed to meet needs. Additional drastic cuts are not likely, but the significant reductions to public schools and social services over the past two years are not likely to be reversed. So, the critical policy question is whether to use the improved ending state balance to rebuild inadequate public school finances and social services or to use the extra revenues for tax cuts?

The Governor's tax policy plan to significantly reduce personal income tax obligations has not received broad support. The Kansas House is working on its own plan, that is not quite as regressive but takes $300 million from the state highway funds to make it work. The Senate is also in the process of reworking the Governor's plan.

The Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Policy Institute (both with ties- known and suspected- to Koch Brothers industry money) have launched aggressive ad campaigns pushing tax cuts and a small govern-ment agenda. It hard to say if fundamental tax policy can be passed during this session or instead be the center of debate in the fall elections. If not accomplished this session, brace yourself for an ugly campaign season of outside, corporate advocates telling you what is in your own best interest.

Redistricting. The Kansas Legislature has to redraw the districts for the Kansas House, Senate and four Congressional seats. The Kansas House map looks done with three western districts eliminated and three new districts added in Johnson County, the state's largest population center and wealthiest county. The Kansas Senate map is proving much more difficult. Johnson County must be given a new Senate seat so the other 39 seats must be reworked. The Congressional map is equally challenging. The hope was to have all the maps done by Feb. 24 but that seems unlikely. Filing deadline for 2012 elections is June 10.

Corporate Swine Law. In the 1990's, the state established a law giving county commissions authority to permit or deny corporate dairies but allowing citizens the right to vote on allowing corporate swine opera-tions in their counties. Amid grassroots upheaval, several Western Kansas counties voted to ban corporate swine facilities.

Now the state is courting development of these mega-swine and dairy operations. HB 2502 is making its way through both houses and may well be passed to the Governor for signature by this printing.

HB 2502 basically makes it easier for counties to allow corporate swine operations. Once a county commission passes a resolution allowing these facilities, county residents have to circulate a petition to request a county vote. 5% of voters in the last election will have to sign the petition to bring it to a vote. The bill was rushed through the Legislature, with little public reporting or knowledge. It is up to citizens in counties impacted to organize as quickly as possible to respond to any county commission actions.

Immigration. Given the above economic interest in Kansas to recruit more large dairies and hog farms, the interest in immigration laws is high. Western Kansas big ag needs the immigrant labor force, yet Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is leading the charge to write state laws nationwide to strengthen enforcement. This creates an interesting paradox for those trying to grow the agricultural economy via big corporate enterprises.

Kansas's Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman has floated a pilot program in Kansas to develop our own "guest worker" program to help fill the labor gap for agriculture.

Fracking. The Kansas legislature has at least two bills dealing with hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). This new style of horizontal drilling is coming to Kansas in a big way. 66 horizontal well permits were issued in 2011, more than the last three years combined. There are estimates of up to 3000 drilling leases planned for south central and northwestern Kansas.

Horizontal fracking involves drilling vertical for over one mile and then drilling horizontal for another mile. The fracking process cracks open layers of rock across the horizon with a mix of water, sand and chemicals releasing trapped oil and natural gas. The promise is that these oil and gas deposits are far below water aquifers so there is little opportunity to pollute groundwater. But one typical well uses up to 5 million gallons of water mixed with chemicals in the fracking process. This water is highly polluted and is hauled away to deep injection wells. These injection wells are suspected of causing or contributing to recent earthquakes in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio.

SB 375 addresses the issue of applying drilling solids on farmland. Right now the one choice is con-structing pits on site and putting the concentrated solids there. SB 375 allows applying the solids to farmland with some minimal restrictions, including establishing allowable distances from waterways and incor-poration into the soil in parts of the state with over 25 inches of rainfall per year. (On other fronts, currently sedimentation of our reservoirs and lakes is a critical issue to protect water quality. This does not build confidence in our ability to stop agricultural run-off.)

Another bill, HB 2526 gives explicit authority over horizontal drilling to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), which is in charge of regulating oil and gas operations in Ks. The KCC has 91 employees statewide with four field offices. Will they be capable of monitoring even for minimal environmental regulations?


Back issues of KRC's Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Report dating to this year's first issue January 6, 2012, are available at KRC's website at http://www.kansasruralcenter. org/policy.html.

Rural Brainstorm Taps Energy & Talents for Building Communities

On Feb. 3-4, 200 people from rural communities across Kansas gathered at the Big Rural Brainstorm in Newton, Ks. to discuss how they could not just save their shrinking communities but improve them, empower them, and make them vital places to live again.

Rural communities have been on the decline for decades, losing population, schools, churches, grocery stores, but yet they remain places where many are passionate about living there and raising their families. This was the clear message from the people who came from literally every corner of the state to share information, ask questions, and brainstorm ideas to sustain their communities. One important audience demographic was what organizers dubbed 'Power -Ups', people in the 20-39 year old range who live rural by choice and want to work for positive change.

How to attract and retain young people, how to meet their needs and provide meaningful livelihoods and places to live is a critical piece for the future of rural communities. About 40 'Power-Ups' attended.

The event was the brainchild of a few folks who attended a meeting late last fall and were dissatisfied with the program's lack of relevance for their communities. "What if," stated the pre-Brainstorm event publicity, " we brought a couple hundred passionate rural Kansans together, stirred up the energy, and looked at common issues from a completely different point of view?"

Organized largely by the Kansas Sampler Foundation's Marci Penner and a handful of others, the event was described as "an atmosphere of hope, energy, and opportunity" as participants were urged to think outside the box and generate new ideas for sustaining rural communities.

There were no keynote speakers. There were no recipe formulas presented from experts. The event was a true brainstorm involving numerous small group sessions focused on topics ranging from rural schools and education, local food production and access, grocery store retention or new models , housing, tourism, technology needs, health care, maintaining needed services such as mechanics, plumbers, and more.

On the final day, forty people came forward to declare action steps they would take when they got home. Some of those actions include starting a community garden and community foundation, developing a rural entertainment network, and internship programs for businesses, and doing an inventory of Power Ups.

Penner said, "With these 200 committed Kansans offering support and ideas to each other, it is clear that rural Kansas took a positive step forward with this event. By the end, there was no doubt that we are all together in this challenging yet exciting work of sustaining communities."

Those who would like to be on an electronic list to help sustain rural communities should contact the Kansas Sampler Foundation at marci@kansassampler.org for follow up events specific to the Brainstorm. Also, contact KRC's Julie Mettenburg at juliemettenburg@gmail.com if you are interested in connecting with like-minded activists or hearing more about KRC's programs.


Planning Can Mitigate Drought Effect

by Mark Parker

It's true, you can't do much about the weather but you can do something about its impact on your grazing system._That was the consensus message from a full slate of experts at the Kansas Graziers Association Winter Conference, "Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch," Jan. 21 in Emporia.

Presented by the National Drought Mitigation Center, the in-depth workshop examined the effects of drought on forage systems as well as strategies to lessen that impact.

Drought Center Researcher Tonya Haigh emphasized that there is not a single plan that works for every operation but, she said, steps can be taken to significantly reduce farm and ranch vulnerability to drought. Natural Resources Conservation Service Range Management Specialist David Kraft told a large crowd of farmers and ranchers that the combination of dry weather and heavy grazing takes a heavy toll on forage vigor and productivity. Reduced cover - from both litter and standing plants - leaves the soil vulnerable to increased evaporative losses as well as extreme soil surface temperature and the impact of drying winds.

Increased plant diversity in pastures, as well as avoiding over-grazing, results in healthier plants and plant roots and that means a quicker recovery from drought conditions.

"What you do today impacts tomorrow. What you do this year impacts next year," Kraft said. "We have to take advantage of good years to prepare for the bad."

The Emporia-based range specialist suggested that a drought plan focus on efforts to protect vegetation during extreme dry periods. He also advised that producers establish in advance drought management procedures - such as reducing stocking rates - as well as the "trigger points" that put those procedures into effect.

University of Nebraska Forage Specialist Jerry Volesky asserted that "forage has never been more valuable" than it is in the current beef industry economy. He discussed a variety of management tools to address forage shortages, including preg-checking and selling open cows earlier, utilizing corn stalks, supplementing with dried distillers grains, stricter culling and early weaning of calves.

"It is estimated that about 10 pounds of forage is conserved for each day that a calf is weaned. Ten pounds of forage is about 40 percent of the daily requirements for a cow," he said, adding that there would be a positive effect on cow weight and body condition as well.

Kansas rancher Ted Alexander shared some of the steps he's taken as part of his drought management plan. He emphasized the importance of measuring rainfall to better understand its effect on forage crude protein content as well as productivity.

Alexander's drought mitigation measures, which are triggered by previously identified conditions, include reducing yearling grazing days, early weaning and reduced stocking rates. Additionally, he has taken steps to "drought-proof" his ranch by installing pipelines and waterers and eliminating non-productive pasture plants such as eastern red cedars. The Sun City rancher's advice for the attendees was, "Stay flexible. Do the planning and then implement that plan."

Flexibility is an essential component of a drought management plan, said NRCS Range Specialist Dwayne Rice. He advised producers to begin by estimating their average sustainable carrying capacity during average climactic conditions. The manager should then divide - on paper - his or her existing herd into at least three herds. The "A" herd would be the number one priority group, consisting, for example, of the most profitable cows and yearling heifers with high potential value. The "B" herd could include replacement heifers and/or steers nearing their target weight. The "C" herd would include cattle that could be readily sent to market in short-forage situations - older cows, inferior cows, early weaned calves.

By prioritizing the herd, Rice said, producers can avoid "knee-jerk" reactions to drought conditions. Pre-established trigger dates - based on rainfall and forage conditions - would then set the producer's plan in action. Trigger dates should also reflect pivotal periods for forages grown on the farm or ranch. In eastern Kansas, for example, conditions on April 15 would be an indicator of what type of production to expect from cool season grasses.

Strategic financial planning is another important aspect of drought management planning, according to Barry Dunn of South Dakota State University.

Dunn suggested the producers begin with an inventory of all aspects of their operations, including balance sheets and risk assessments as well as physical and human resources. _Each farm or ranch should also develop a vision statement of the operation's goals and plan strategies for various scenarios, including the occurrence of drought.

A relatively new tool for dealing with the financial impact of drought was discussed by Amy Roeder of USDA's Risk Management Agency. RMA is now offering Pasture, Rangeland and Forage insurance through a pilot program that includes Kansas. The policies, Roeder said, are based on a rainfall index that utilizes National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center Data.

Insurance indemnities, Roeder explained, are based on the deviation from normal precipitation in a given area during a specific time period (or periods) selected by the participating producer. Time periods are in two-month intervals so producers can decide which periods correlate to forage growth in their operations. More information, including an online decision tool, is available at www.rma.usda.gov.

Drought conditions across much of Kansas are not likely to moderate in the near future, Kansas Climatologist Mary Knapp told the crowd. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than half of the state is rated as abnormally or exceptionally dry, a situation forecast to continue in the southern part of Kansas.

A La Nina situation is persisting in the tropical Pacific Ocean, Knapp noted, and that means it will continue to influence drier-than-normal conditions in the Southern Plains. Additionally, she pointed out, fluctuations in sea surface temperatures (oscillations) in the Atlantic and Pacific are weakening which also supports La Nina's persistence.

La Nina conditions are expected to weaken eventually and be replaced sometime this summer with El Nino conditions that warm the equatorial Pacific and favor wetter conditions in Kansas and across the Central Plains. The drought management program was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency. Participants received a "Managing Drought Risk on the Ranch handbook containing information that is also available online at http://drought.unl.edu/ ranchplan.

In addition to the National Drought Mitigation Center, the Kansas Graziers Association and the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition, workshop sponsors included the Kansas Rural Center, the Kansas Farmers Union and the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops.


Lessons From the Statehouse and Beyond

by Julie Mettenburg

People warned me there would be days like this.

A fine mist alternated with raindrops pelting from the grey sky that cloaked our capital city. I had rushed in to testify on a corporate farm bill in front of the Senate Ag Committee and planned to get back to my office quickly, but someone had parked a truck containing a home-made bomb just a few spaces from my car.

So on this morning, feeling blue and with yellow tape encircling the lot holding my car, I clutched my umbrella and trudged across the Statehouse lawn toward a downtown coffee shop to wait out the police investigation that would last into the afternoon. Along the way, I reflected that actually, it felt like a bomb had gone off in the Kansas state legislature.

This year's very active session could alter the Kansas landscape for several lifetimes. The bill on which I had just testified would make it easier for counties to grant permits to large, corporate out-of-state swine facilities, like the 125,000-hog Seaboard facility seeking to move into Greeley County.

The next day a hearing was scheduled to consider whether the sludge from "fracking" natural gas wells should be spread on fields rather than injected into pits. This sludge is known to contain toxins and salts that render land potentially unusable.

And as our policy reporter, Paul Johnson, has pointed out, all of this comes in the face of decreasing environmental oversight, as our regulatory agencies shrink due to budgetary challenges, and the Legislature decides whether to cut taxes because the State coffers have gained ground.

Lack of Representation?

In sum, it feels like the limited resources of groups like the Kansas Rural Center in Topeka is taking its toll, as this year, an active legislative agenda moves with almost opportunistic fervor to roll out the welcome mat to large corporations across environ-mentally and economically questionable sectors.

The press are barely covering these bills as they sail through the legislature in mere days or weeks. The modern world is also moving a mile a minute. The result is that the public scarcely knows about the new laws that will change their world.

We will not understand the repercussions for several years, when any damage to our environment, economy and communities will become apparent. By then, it will be difficult if not impossible to turn back the effects of 125,000 hogs concentrated over the Ogallala Aquifer and elsewhere in the state, or on the potentially exploitive contractual or employment arrangements imposed upon our farmers, workers, and immigrants, or so much fracking sludge spread over our fields.

Indeed, I found myself wondering, who's being represented here? The corporations who seek our resources, or our citizens and communities?

Although much has been made about the jobs that supposedly will come with these economic "opportunities," we are also looking at having to change immigration policy to ensure we have the workers to fill them. So who are we seeking to employ, and at what cost? Have these jobs been analyzed in terms of pay, contractual requirements, and environmental toll? These are questions it seems we should take the time to consider before establishing these new laws.

New Energy from the Grassroots

Thankfully, my gray day ended when the yellow tape came down, (the bomb threat was neutralized) and this scene of disconnect in the statehouse contrasts markedly to my travels around the state. New energy bubbles up from the grassroots and within organizations like ours. I am one of several new staff or leaders from various organizations in Kansas linked together by our intersecting goals, hope and new ideas, like little rafts on a rough sea.

Perhaps new energy was most obvious at the Big Rural Brainstorm in Newton on Feb. 3 and 4, where 200 "Rural by Choice" Kansans gathered to tackle big issues facing their communities, such as how to grow from within rather than wait for jobs from the outside.

We worked on how to save our rural groceries, how to get food distribution where traditional distribution models have failed us, how to improve our health and how to keep our wealth in our communities. We organized around ideas, entrepreneurship and connections and returned to our communities with action, activities and next-steps.

It was not lost on these rural advocates that our elected representatives are largely absent from these conversations.

When will Topeka and Washington listen? The answer, we know, is when our rural communities are speaking loudly enough, and when our citizens exercise our vote. When we require it. This requires organization, to bring our many voices together, which is the ultimate task for these new grassroots activists and leaders including myself, with your help.

What You Can Do

*Sign up for our weekly policy e-updates by e-mailing ksrc@rainbowtel.net, and monitor activity so you can know when to contact your representatives on important issues.

*Contribute to KRC. We have a tall fundraising challenge to support this work.

E-mail me at juliemettenburg@gmail.com if you are interested in connecting with like-minded activists who want to create change from the grassroots up.

Julie Mettenburg began work as KRC's Executive Director Dec. 1, 2011. She lives in Lawrence, Ks. with her husband and two children, and is active in the management of her parents farm near Princeton, Ks. Contact her at juliemettenurg@gmail.com


Meet Cole Cottin- New OLF Kaw River Valley Coordinator

Hailing from Lawrence, Cole Cottin obtained a BA in Anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). She spent a year volunteering at UCSC's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems - a 28 acre diversified orchard, farm, and garden, managed using organic methods, that serves as an agricultural research and training facility.

In 2009, Cole gained invaluable experience in post harvest handling and direct and wholesale marketing of meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables through co-management of Virginia-based local foods distributor Good Food Good People's 350 member CSA fruit share, 50 member CSA vegetable share, two farmers market stands, online "virtual market," and year-round local food distribution serving restaurants and retail outlets in three southwest Virginia cities.

In 2010, Cole returned to Lawrence with her husband, Dan Phelps, and the two founded MAD Farm. MAD Farm, named for and inspired by Wendell Berry's writings about the "Mad Farmer Revolution," produces garden starts and annual fruits and vegetables on several leased plots around Lawrence. They market their products through two farmers markets, the local cooperative grocery store, and several area restaurants. In 2012, they will debut their farm's own online "virtual market."

Prior to joining the Our Local Food team, Cole worked as Lead Trainer in The Merc Co-op's produce department and was self-employed on the farm. She and her husband are members of a local growers' collective, Growing Lawrence, and regularly participate in farm-to-school activities to help educate young folks about where food comes from.

Cole loves nutritious, whole foods and takes great pride in her involvement with the rising local foods movement in our beloved "Sunflower State" - home to some of the best soils on Earth!

2012 Savor the Season Launched

Kansas farms and farmers markets looking to attract more customers with fresh fruits and vegetables this summer will have a new tool thanks to the Kansas Rural Center's "Savor the Season" Program (StS), part of the Our Local Food Project. StS will feature a variety of materials, recipes, and grower training information about 10 feature crops for this year. This year's specialty crops are: Spinach, Arugula, Snow Peas, Rhubarb, Basil, Bell Peppers, Garlic, Spaghetti Squash, Turnips, and Pumpkins.

Through Savor the Season, both farmers markets and producers can receive funding and other assistance for promoting these specialty crops. Markets interested in joining the Savor the Season program can find applications online at www.ksfarmersmarkets.org. March 15, 2012 is the sign-up deadline.

For markets, Savor the Season provides a unified voice in the promotion of diversity and sales of local produce, and funding opportunities through mini-grants up to $250 targeted at new or smaller markets interested in testing a special events program. For markets with existing special events programs, cost-shares will match up to $400 for specialty crop promotions. The application deadline for both programs is March 15, 2012.

For producers of fruits and vegetables, Savor the Season partners with K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Vegetable Growers Association, Kansas Master Food local agencies to provide resources and specific guidance on production, post-harvest handling and marketing. Savor the Season also provides promotional materials--cards, banners and tip sheets on nutrition and preservation--for display at market booths, along with online resources and webinars.

For consumers, seasonal cards available at farmers markets provide details on selection and storage of fresh produce along with preparation tips and recipes. Cards will be shipped to area markets by April 18, 2012. Consumers, chefs, master food volunteers and others interested in the program are encouraged to submit favorite recipes using these 10 crops to twinrivers.olf@gmail.com by March 1, 2012.

The mission of the Savor the Season program is to improve the diversity of fruits and vegetables grown in Kansas, and to increase the sales of those crops. Savor the Season is part of Our Local Food, a program of the Kansas Rural Center made possible by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant from the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Our Local Food is a network of local farms, farmers markets, food businesses and consumers committed to helping Kansans eat better, and to re-building a sustainable local food economy.

For further information, go to http://www.ourlocalfoodks.org, or http://www.ksfarmersmarkets.org or to http://www.kansasruralcenter. org.


Hearings Begin on 2012 Farm Bill

On February 15, the Senate Agriculture Committee held the first of four hearings for the upcoming 2012 Farm Bill. Titled "Energy and Eco-nomic Growth for Rural America," the hearing covered programs and policies in the Energy and Rural Development Titles of the farm bill. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) opened the hearing with general comments on the next farm bill, noting that with the nation's agriculture sector employing 16 million Americans, the farm bill is thus a "jobs bill."

With the current farm bill expiring on September 30, 2012, she added that it is "critical" that a farm bill be passed this year, a sentiment she acknowledged was echoed in a letter sent by over 80 organizations last week, including NSAC, to complete the farm bill in 2012.

With the current farm bill expiring on September 30, 2012, she added that it is "critical" that a farm bill be passed this year, a sentiment she acknowledged was echoed in a letter sent by over 80 organizations last week, including NSAC, to complete the farm bill in 2012. Later in the hearing, she commented that the $23 billion in proposed cuts from the Agriculture Committees for the Super Committee last year were "our fair share" of deficit reduction.

Sen. Stabenow spoke about the importance of our "bio economy," including biomass production, and cited the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) as the most popular of energy programs and an excellent job creator. Specific to Rural Development, Sen. Stabenow stated her priorities on efficiency of programs and regional approaches, as well as to the need for long-term, sustainable economic growth in rural America.

For more on the first hearing, go to http://sustainableagriculturecoalition.org. Three more hearings will be held: February 28: Strengthening conservation through the 2012 Farm Bill; March 14: Healthy food initiatives, local production, and nutrition; and March 21: Risk management and commodities in the 2012 Farm Bill. Go to NSAC website at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/senate-hearing-energy-rd/ for more. (From NSAC, Feb. 15, 2012)

White House Budget Disappointing for Natural Resources and Small Farmers

President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget request sent to Congress on February 13 includes a smattering of 2012 Farm Bill proposals, including most prominently the same $32 billion in 10-year farm bill cuts he issued last September and a proposed one-year cut to farm bill conservation programs of $432 million.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) Policy Director Ferd Hoefner offered these comments on the proposal: "The Obama farm bill budget cutting proposal is not terribly interesting. It follows the emerging consensus to do away with direct payments but offers no alternative safety net proposal other than renewing a largely discredited and expensive farm disaster program."

"It also proposes an across-the-board two percent cut to farmers' crop insurance premium subsidies. Both the commodity payment and crop insurance proposals fail to target the cuts, and thus their impact would be felt most heavily by small and medium-size farms. Neither proposal addresses the critical issue of whether the public should be given assurances that natural resources are protected in return for their large investment in farm production subsidies."

"Nowhere in the President's request is any indication given that the farm bill has an important role to play in economic recovery, job creation, and improved public health through renewal of funding for innovative programs that expire at the end of 2012. "

With respect to FY 2013 farm bill conservation program spending, the Obama budget proposes to layer still further cuts of $432 million on top of the more than $1.25 billion in farm bill conservation cuts enacted as part of the FY 2011 and FY 2012 appro-priations bills. All of the proposed cuts would come from working lands conservation programs that help farmers protect natural resources and reward farmers for the environmental benefits they produce.

The budget request would cut the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by 759,632 acres, or approx-imately $68 million. It would also cut the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $347 million, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program by $12 million, and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program by $5 million.

"Once again the President zeroes in on natural resource conservation and environmental protection as the primary farm bill area for immediate reductions through the appropriations process," said Hoefner.

"Between the backdoor cuts already made in previous appropriations bills and the expected substantial attrition-based reduction in expenditures for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), conservation programs have already paid more than their full pro rata fair share of any new farm bill cuts. It is time for other titles of the farm bill to pony up."

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.

(From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, News Release, February 13, 2012_Contact: Ferd Hoefner, Greg Fogel_202-547-5754. Go to the NSAC website at http://sustainable agriculture coalition.org for more information.


Women Caring for the Land Meetings Underway

Women own or co-own much of our farmland and they often express strong conservation values. Older women often end up inheriting farmland and the responsibilities that go with it, but have not had much experience dealing with state and federal conservation agencies and programs, and find dealing with tenant farmers to be difficult or frustrating, and vice versa.

This spring, the Kansas Rural Center and Cheney Lake Watershed are partnering to provide an opportunity for these older women landowners to learn more about achieving conser-vation goals on their land. Women Caring for the Land offers a peer-to-peer, informal discussion format in conjunction with a farm tour to see conservation practices in the field.

This is a pilot program in Kansas to determine the need for conservation information and the best way to transfer that information to the women who need it the most, and to deter-mine if expanding the scope of the project is needed.

KRC and Cheney Lake Watershed will offer a series of learning circle meetings and farm tours for women within Cheney Watershed this spring and fall.

Contact Lisa French, Cheney Lake Watershed office at 620-669-8161 Ext. 1335, or Mary Fund at the KRC_office 785-873-3431 for more information.


FSA Announces New Rule Helping Beginning
Farmers With Loans

The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced a new rule that expands loan opportunities for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The rule allows FSA loan officers to consider all prior farming experience, including on-the-job training and formal education, when determining eligibility for farm operating and ownership loans.

FSA also expanded a previous pilot program, the Land Contract Guaran-tee Program, from six state to all 50 states. This program is designed to encourage farmers and ranchers to sell their property to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers through the use of seller financing.

The changes in eligibility will increase access for farmers and ranchers to FSA loans and credit. It enables landowners to sell their farmland to the next generation on a contract for deed with a 90% guaran-tee against losses to the seller.

More information can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Financing Your Farm: Guidance for Beginning Farmers Available

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT ) has a new publi-cation available to help beginning farmers understand available loan and credit programs. Small- and medium-scale farmers and those new to the world of finance are the target audience. The intention is to help these readers consider a range of options for raising capital and reducing expenses involved in starting a farm, with a bank or government loan as just one tool, albeit an important one, in a whole toolkit of creative possibilities.

Go to the NCAT website at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/local_food/startup.html to their Beginning Farmer page for the above and other publications.

New Study Links Pesticides to Bee Deaths

A new study by Purdue University scientists seems to confirm what has long been suspected -- that the massive bee die-offs known as Colony Collapse Disorder are linked to pesticides. The Purdue research indicates bee deaths are connected to neonicotinoid pesticides, which use a synthetic derivative of nicotine. These chemicals are applied as a coating to corn and soybean seeds prior to planting. They are then absorbed by the plant's vascular system and expressed through pollen and nectar. Farmers have planted millions of acres of farmland with neonic-treated seeds since 2003.


Grazing Teleconference Call-In Numbers Changed

On the second Monday evening of every month at 7:30 p.m., KRC hosts a conversation with graziers from across the state. Dale Kirkham, KRC Field staff, and Kansas State University’s Gary Kilgore and Keith Harmoney at lead this informal discussion of all aspects of grazing management.

But the call in number for these teleconference calls is changing.

The next call will be Monday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.

To join these toll free calls, simply follow these instructions with the new number:

Dial 1-877-304-5632; followed by code:

300 346 2424#

Fanchers, farmers and educators interested in grazing can glean something from these discussions: learn how to use complementary forages to extend your grazing season, gain management tips and explore ideas to improve profitability while you responsibly manage your natural resources.

Anyone can join in the call by simply dialing in 1-877-304-5632. Then dial in the conference room number : 300 346 2424#. This will be a toll free call. You are welcome to leave or join the call at anytime between 7:30 and 9 pm.

To receive an email reminder of the call, send a request to Mary Fund at ksrc@rainbowtel.net. The call-in information is also listed on KRC’s website at www.kansasruralcenter.org/ calendar.

High Tunnel Workshop and Farm Tour Set for March 13 in Lawrence

The Kansas Rural Center and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops (KCSAAC) are sponsoring a High Tunnel Workshop and Tour on March 13, 2012 at Moon on the Meadow Farm 1515 E. 11th Street, Lawrence, Ks. Jill Elmers, owner/operator of Moon on the Meadow Farm, a certified organic vegetable, herb, and small fruit grower, grower utilizing 4000 square feet of high tunnels will host a tour at her farm in the morning. In the afternoon, learn methods in construction, crop production, management, and marketing from K-State Extension specialist, Cary Rivard and Lawrence area high tunnel growers at a workshop at the Douglas County Extension Office.


10:00 am-Noon: Farm Tour at Moon on the Meadow Farm_1515 E. 11th Street, Lawrence, KS 66046

Noon-1: 00 pm: Lunch on your own

1:00 pm- Douglas County K-State Extension Office: Dreher Building, North Room_2110 Harper Street, Lawrence, KS 66046

1:00 pm-2:00 pm: High Tunnel Construction, Production, & Management_Cary Rivard, K-State Extension Vegetable & Fruit Specialist

2:00 pm-4:00 pm: Farm Panel_Dan Nagengast- Wild Onion Farm;

Stephanie Thomas-Spring Creek Farm,and Dan & Mary Howell-Howell Farm.

The tour and workshop are free to the public. But please pre-register by March 10. To register go to the KRC website at www.kansasruralcenter.org/calendar

or contact Natalie Fullerton at 402-310-0177 or southcentral.olf@gmail.com.

High Tunnel Construction Workshop Scheduled for March 24

Learn how to construct a high tunnel by assisting in this hands-on demonstration! From the ground up, experience techniques used to erect a 20' x 96' Zimmerman Hoop House on site. Jen Humphrey and Jessica Pierson own and operate The Red Tractor Farm, a diverse vegetable, goat meat, and egg farm near Lawrence, KS.

The day will begin at 9 a.m. with construction led by Cary Rivard- K-State Extension Vegetable & Fruit Crop Specialist, who manages several high tunnels and high tunnel research at the Olathe Experiment Station. Lunch Speaker will be Dan Nagengast- Owner of Seeds from Italy and Wild Onion Farm, and experienced high tunnel farmer.

Since this is a hands-on workshops, bring or wear work clothes, closed toe shoes, gloves, hand tools such as cordless drills, and a water bottle. Though optional, please feel free to bring a dish with serving utensils to share for a potluck lunch.

The workshop is free to attend. To register, go to www.kansasruralcenter.org/calendar; please pre-register by March 2. For more information contact: Natalie Fullerton at 402-310-0177 or southcentral. olf@gmail.com , or Jen Humphrey at 785-550-4906 or jhumphrey1@gmail.com.

Livestock Producer Management Practices Workshops Planned for April 2

Livestock producers in the Milford and Tuttle Creek Watersheds are invited to attend one of two meetings that will focus on Best Management Practices for livestock operations.Meetings will be at the Linn American Legion, 100 5th St, Linn, KS, 10:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. and the Marysville City Building, 209 N 8th, Marysville, KS, 4:00 - 8:00 p.m. on April 2, 2012.

Confined winter livestock feeding operations often contribute to high levels of bacterial contamination in streams from November to May when livestock are brought closer to home for feeding. Unfortunately, significant storm events wash the manure and churned topsoil into local streams-contaminating the water and washing away topsoil and valuable nutrients.

With a few changes in herd management and feeding procedure, the manure and sediment that relocates from feeding sites to streams will be greatly reduced.

The workshop presentations will offer alternative winter feeding possibilities that improve health and decrease the harmful impacts on farm and ranch water sources. Speakers include Dale Strickler on "The ABC's of Extending the Grazing Season and Amazing Benefits of Cover Crops"; Dr. Joel DeRouchey, KSU, "Water Still Runs Downhill-- Taking Topsoil, Sediment, Nutrients, and Bacteria"; Will Boyer, KSU Watershed Specialist, "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Winter Feeding - Site Relocation and Options"; Josh Roe, KSU, and Barbara Donovan, Tuttle Creek WRAPS Coordinator, "Watershed Opportunities" currently available to producers in the watershed.

Please register by noon on Friday March 30 for meals (and handouts) by calling:

Washington County Extension 785-325-2121; Marshall County Extension 785-562-3531;or Mary Howell at marshallcofair@ gmail.com, or 785-562-8726.

The meeetings are sponsored by the Milford WRAPS and the Tuttle Creek WRAPS watersheds. #