Extreme weather can put a farmer out of business, and anyone involved in production and agricultural business knows this very well. Given the variability of weather conditions in Vermont, it is somewhat common to experience excess water early in growing season, as is the case with this spring. This is in stark contrast to last summer’s drought, which caused different problems for area farmers. One tool to deal with this variability is insurance.
Forage seeding is insurable if:
1. It is alfalfa, or forage mixture
containing at least 50 percent alfalfa, clover, birdsfoot trefoil or any other locally recognized and approved forage legume species (by weight); or
2. It is planted during the current crop year to establish a normal stand of forage. This policy does not cover any acreage that is grown with the intent to be grazed, or grazed at any time during the insurance period; or interplanted with another crop (except nurse crops).
VERMONT CROP INSURANCE
DEADLINES: Fall-Seeded Forage 2017
• Sales Closing Date: July 31
• Final Planting Date: August 31
• Acreage Report Date: November 15 Spring-Seeded Forage 2018
• Sales Closing Date: March 15
• Acreage Report Date: May 15
• Final Planting Date May 10
Self-Certification of Small Farm Operators (CSFO) triggered by the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) is now ongoing. Info and forms for small farmers now required to certify at: agriculture.vermont.gov/sfo
One big change is the number of farms now falling under the requirement to have a nutrient management plan (NMP). “Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM) understands that few Certified Small Farm Operations will have a complete Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) for 2017, but that farmers should be actively working towards NMP
completion by taking modified Morgan extractant soil samples and applying manure at agronomic rates.” If you have questions about CSFOs, taking samples, getting your NMP or other RAPs regulations, we can help you navigate this transition. Stop by our Extension office or give us a call!
August 7, 8 a.m.-noon – Drop off crop entries to participate in our FIELD CROP EXHIBIT. Addison County Fair and Field Days August 8-12: We are looking forward to your entries. This is one way we connect with the public, describe the importance of agriculture, and how farming has changed over the years. From corn and hay to wheat and soybeans, help us show and tell everybody about the great crops you grow – then use your prize winnings on fair treats for the family!
Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition’s monthly meetings and field day events are a great way for farmers to connect on water quality issues that go hand-in-hand with farm profitability. When faced with changing regulations and public views, we are stronger together. Come to a CVFC meeting or field day: discover and join this progressive, exciting group
of farmers and supporting business members. Schedule at: www.champlainvalleyfarmercoalition.com
With support from Mark Cannella, Farm Business Management Specialist
It should not be news that the new Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) are coming into effect this month. While some farms may have to make relatively small adjustments to their production systems, others may have to make drastic changes to fully comply with the law. In economic terms, this law is an attempt to “internalize” some “externalities” of farming. That is, the costs of compliance will be borne by the farmer. In many cases, most notably “conventional” dairy production, these internalized costs are not easily pushed up the chain from farmer to processor to consumer.
As farmers are acutely aware, fluid milk prices are low. With the exception of the incentive program through Caring Dairy, milk payments to farmers are generally not connected to adoption of these practices. Therefore, farmers have to navigate how these practices, minor or major, play into their farm’s economic viability. Farmers without a comprehensive business plan or economic analysis may now need to take an honest look at where they stand.
In addition, major fixes to farmstead structural projects can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take substantial amounts of time and effort to implement. Experts working in the fields of regulation and farmer outreach need to be asking the question: “What is the phosphorus reduction in comparison to the costs of a given project, and how can both
conservation and farm viability be met?”
Practices and engineered structures, by rule, have to meet very specific guidelines in order to meet Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) standards for financial assistance, though it may or may not always be in the best interest of the farm operation for a given structural investment. Farmers navigating these choices should have a clear understanding of their business finances, and what the horizon looks like for their operation.
AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS PROGRAMS: A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR WATER QUALITY RELATED BUSINESS PLANNING
Enter Agricultural Business Programs (also known as Farm Viability) at UVM Extension. These programs teach and advise farm owners working to make the best decisions for all aspects of their business. This includes business planning support, financial analysis, research projects and educational training. Right now, the UVM Agriculture Business Team is inviting farms to participate in water quality business analysis. This is in addition to their foundational “farm viability” program that is always available for in-depth business planning or transfer/succession planning.
Farms enrolling in Water Quality Business Analysis projects work one-on-one with a business educator. The team facilitates strategic planning and nut-and-bolts financial analysis to ensure positive cash flow as farmers make changes to meet water quality goals. UVM Extension business educators serve in the key coordination role of the planning process when multiple people from state agencies, NRCS and land trusts need to be at the table to see a project move forward.
On June 13, UVM Extension and the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition
teamed up to host a bus tour to six farms throughout Addison and Chittenden Counties highlighting spring conservation practices. The tour showcased manure injection, cover crop and no-till systems, pasture management, and nutrient management on dairy and vegetable farms. It was a long, information-packed day. One of the most amazing things was that all of the host farms had the same general message: they care about our environment, and are working hard, taking risks, and investing a lot of time and money to try to be the best farmers they can.
One tour participant commented that they were flooded with information and hadn’t realized just how much farmers are standing up and taking a leadership role to protect water quality. The event was a great example of how farmer organizations and UVM Extension can work together to support the agricultural backbone of Vermont.
One of the demonstration projects on the bus tour was a trial of rolling-crimping a winter rye cover crop, using farm built equipment. Rolling-crimping works best on a more mature cover crop, which may be useful in a spring like this one if winter rye becomes thick and tall because spring rains prevent termination. Rolling-crimping also helps facilitate the
mulching effect of the cover crop and, with correct furrow adjustment, should address issues of light penetration to young seedlings.
Separately, Jeff Sanders, from UVM Extension Northwest Crops
and Soils, received a grant to purchase and demo a planter-
mounted roller-crimper. This is actually a shield and two disks on the front of each planter unit, as opposed to a single roller-crimper. These attachments are angled to part the cover crop material and roll it away from the furrow where the corn is planted.
We used this technology on two Addison County farms totaling around 50 acres. After 4 hours of adjusting the planter, we were successfully rolling-crimping! One farm field had manure injected several inches below the surface a month before planting and another field had large scale
cover crop trials. When compared to a regular no-till field, which can
look chaotic, there is a very satisfying symmetry when the field
However, we had some setbacks while planting. There was so much residue that every few acres we had to stop and clean the closing wheels because at least one would plug with winter rye. Specific closing wheels seemed to be plugging more often, and we will have to investigate that further. We also had issues getting adequate down pressure to crimp the rye stalks properly; this may not be an issue with a heavier corn
We will monitor the fields over the next few months, observing changes in water infiltration/retention and drought stress response, weed and pest levels, nitrogen availability, and corn yield.
Thanks to Jeff Sanders and the participating farmers! We look forward to sharing results and to future trials.
Spring 2017 started relatively dry, but Mother Nature has certainly made up for it, with above average rainfall in May, and the seventh wettest June in 100 years (National Weather Service, Burlington, VT).
While this spring’s rainfall may average out to be normal, the timing of it has caused some problems. Rain started to increase just as corn planting season began, keeping soils cold and postponing planting. Cold soils delayed emergence and slowed growth in planted fields. More to the point, nitrogen fertilizer that was applied pre-plant or at planting time has seen extremely susceptible to loss. Nitrogen is lost through denitrification in saturated soils, and is lost through leaching in well-drained soils. Either way, nitrogen is often not there when the corn needs it. This will prompt many farmers to think about applying nitrogen to corn while it is growing, a technique known as sidedressing, which is a more efficient
use of nitrogen, especially on soils prone to leaching.
The good news is that the organic nitrogen in manure has been slow to mineralize because of the cool temperatures and will still be there as the season progresses. However, it is safe to say many farms will be sidedressing corn with extra nitrogen this year.
The old, reliable way to predict how much sidedress nitrogen to apply is the pre-sidedress nitrogen test (PSNT). PSNTs are simple and affordable ($6-8). However, they require effort and only offer a snapshot in time; they do not account for previous activity nor for future nitrogen mineralization.
An alternative way to generate sidedress recommendations is Adapt-N software. Nitrogen is very dynamic in the soil so it is difficult to predict how much will be plant-available. Therefore, it is necessary to have as much information as possible about fertilizer, manure, previous crop and soil type to generate a good recommendation with Adapt-N. You can also assess the nitrogen needs of corn using chlorophyll meters, active sensors and aerial imagery. These can be effective when used properly, and local agricultural consultants can provide these services.
PSNT is recommended for corn fields 2 or more years after a sod, and/or where manure rate is uncertain, or if manure application is not expected to meet corn N requirement. PSNT is not recommended in first-year corn after a grass sod; first-year corn after an alfalfa grass stand is plowed down; or if enough manure was applied to meet corn N requirement.
Below are the PSNT sampling guidelines, a link to the UVM sample submission form, and the updated UVM nitrogen recommendations
based on PSNT results. Results are usually sent out within 24 hours since the information is time-sensitive.
PSNT Sampling Guidelines:
1. Wait 2-3 days after significant rainfall (due to nitrate
2. Sample when corn is 6-12” tall and sample to a depth of
12” – deeper than a regular soil test.
3. Take 15-20 cores per field from in between rows to avoid
fertilizer bands. Mix sample thoroughly.
4. Air dry samples ASAP to stop further mineralization.
5. Submit samples in small plastic bag (about 1 cup).
Farmers are planting cover crops at a rapidly increasing rate across Vermont – and for good reasons. The water quality and soil health benefits of this farming practice are undeniable. However, a farmer who manages that cover crop in a spring like this one will attest to the added complexity cover crops bring to the challenges of growing annual crops in Vermont.
Through our work with many innovative producers in the Champlain Valley, we identified the need to think about planting cover crops differently. We should not only ask questions about how late we can plant or how to get the most biomass possible, but can we take a more nuanced approach to decision making? In order to use cover crops as a management tool, a farmer should first decide on the goal for that cover
crop, and then implement a plan to accomplish that goal.
The main goal is usually to reduce erosion and nutrient loss. However, are you also trying to reduce weed pressure, decrease nitrogen applications for the subsequent crop? Will you be interseeding into a standing crop? Do you want to maximize spring biomass either to harvest it as forage or to use a rollercrimper device? Or, maybe you hope to minimize spring biomass to ease spring field management without sacrificing erosion control and nutrient retention.
The latter example is one goal we have heard from many producers who value the role cover crops play in reducing soil and nutrient loss in the sensitive fall and early spring seasons, but who don’t want so much biomass to deal with in the spring when it’s time to plant annual
crops, especially on heavier soils.
Borrowing an idea from one such farm, last fall we planted cover crop plots on nine farms, from Westford to Pawlet, on sandy loam to clay soils. Our goal was to determine the “magic” combination of seeding rates for planting winter rye and spring oats in the fall to maximize fall performance, while minimizing spring biomass. The dry fall and wet spring thwarted some of our efforts, but we were able to collect data at six locations. We don’t have the final answer yet, as one year doesn’t tell the whole story. However, we found that all combinations did comparably
well at providing at least 30% ground cover to protect from erosion in the fall. With the exception of the all-oat plots, all combinations increased soil cover and biomass from fall to spring.
This trial supported previous observations that winter rye – planted with a grain drill – provides similarly high biomass in the spring at different seeding rates, down to 45 pounds per acre. The two combinations that seemed to maximize fall performance and spring soil coverage while minimizing spring biomass were 30 pounds of rye with 45 pounds of oats, and 15 pounds of rye with 60 pounds of oats. The lowest rate of rye is probably not an advisable rate on steep ground, but it should provide enough soil coverage on flat ground.
Our aim is to help farmers identify the pros and cons of different methods of cover cropping, and evaluate which methods accomplish particular goals. We are moving beyond the basics in Vermont, and it is important to utilize this important conservation tool in a way that benefits not only the watershed, but also your farm.
When farmers are considering grazing as a new management practice, or want to change or improve an existing system, there are many questions from both the animal perspective and the land perspective: Is this going to work? Will my animals like it? What will this look like? How will I do it?
These are all reasonable questions, which are not easily answered in a one or two-hour farm visit. I find the most successful grazing systems develop when there is farmer involvement in the planning process, and the farmer has a good relationship with a service provider and other farmers who can answer questions and share ideas.
This fall we will start offering a new grazing management course for farmers who want to learn about the benefits and challenges of grazing – from both economic and environmental perspectives. Each farmer will develop a plan specific to their operation which takes into account their
farm goals. The class will meet once per week over the course of a month, and each farmer will receive a copy of Sarah Flack’s book The Art and
Science of Grazing as the course textbook and helpful future reference. Outside of class, one-on-one farm visits will provide additional support
as new practices and strategies are implemented on the ground.
Here is a sampling of what the class will cover:
• Pasture plant identification of common species, looking at favorable growth conditions and how plants respond to grazing impact.
• Pasture nutrition – how it can affect grazing behavior, overall intake, and animal performance.
• Grazing management concepts such as measuring dry matter availability, determining paddock sizes, stocking rate versus stock
density and overall acreage requirements.
• Soil health in pasture systems and the benefits of soil, forage and manure testing to understand nutrient cycling and nutrient management within pasture systems.
• Pasture system design to determine infrastructure needs, and management techniques to avoid overgrazing damage, decreased
carrying capacity and other negative impacts.
• Grazing record keeping systems and the benefits of monitoring and documenting activities.
Eligible farmers will be able to use the grazing plan they develop in class to apply for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funding opportunities to help cost-share a variety of grazing practices. However, new infrastructure alone will not create improvements. Achieving healthy pasture ecosystems requires an understanding of the relationship between the soil, the plants and livestock grazing behavior. A clear goal and a plan based on plant and animal needs are essential for success. We anticipate the course will run from mid-October to mid-November, with up to 12 hours of classroom and planning time. If you are interested in participating, or want to know more, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org; (802) 388-4969 x346
Successful grazing plans can include laneways to reduce mud and erosion, as seen in photos before installation (above left) and after (above right). Stream crossings and water tubs eliminate animal impact on surface waters (below).
Spring Pasture Walk. This Friday, May 5, Addison, VT. For more information and rsvp contact Cheryl Cesario (802-388-4969 ext. 346).
Cover Crops as Forage Crops. Next Monday, May 8, Cornwall, VT, 11:00-12:00 pm. Meet at the Champlain Valley Motorsports parking lot. Coordinated with the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition, this informal “crop patrol” for farmers will explore growing and harvesting a winter rye cover crop for forage. We will explore how would you manage a cover crop to maximize forage yield, fit into an annual crop system, and utilize for grazing before a summer crop. For more information contact Nate (802-388-4969 ext. 348).
Spring Bus Tour – Celebrating Local Farm Conservation Efforts. May 17, 9:30 am-3:45 pm. Coordinated with the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition, this is a day long bus tour of Chittenden and Addison County Farmers participating in conservation work and supporting the joint mission of agricultural economy and improving water quality. This bus tour is for farmers, representatives, state and federal professionals. For more information and rsvp, contact Nate (802-388-4969 ext. 348)
802-388-4969 ~ 23 Pond Lane, Suite 300 Middlebury, VT 05753
Events hosted by other affiliates:
Dairy Science and Sanitation. May 10-11, 8:30 am-5 pm, UVM, Burlington, VT. Hosted by the UVM Extension and Cornell University. More information can be found here.
The Youth Agricultural Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, a collaboration of University of Vermont (UVM) Extension 4-H and the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, has extended its deadline to May 15 for applications for its next program cycle. The free one-year program helps young farmers, ages 14 to 21, acquire the necessary financial skills and business assets to operate their own agricultural business. More info/applications here.
The New RAP rules are now in effect, including vegetative buffer requirements. If you are plowing and/or planting annual crops, you should be informed of buffer rules. To see the entire list of RAP rule effective dates, see this link. Questions should be directed to VAAFM. You can also contact us if you’d like help on your farm determining how to make compliance work for your operation.
The Agricultural Business / Farm Viability Program, through UVM Extension has ongoing funding for water quality business analysis, to help farmers analyze options for meeting conservation and regulatory compliance goals. Analysis will include financial planning, strategic planning and coordination with related agencies. For more information or to sign up, contact Mark Canella (1-866-860-1383, toll free in VT).
Following the New Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in the Floodplain – For Farmers. April 4, Middlebury Extension Office, 10 am-12 pm. We will be discussing floodplain agriculture including: manure spreading ban, incorporation of manure, cover crops on annual cropland, and limitations of stacked manure. For more information contact Nate (802-388-4969 ext. 348).
No-Till Planter Clinic.April 6, Gosliga Farm, Addison, 10 am-12 pm. For more information click here, or contact Rico (802-773-3349 ext. 281).
Organic Certification Renewal Clinic. April 6 and April 11, Middlebury Extension Office, 10 am-4 pm. This year, applications must be submitted electronically. We are holding clinics to help you get it done. We will provide laptops or you can bring your own. To sign up and for more information contact Cheryl (802-388-4969 ext. 346)
Crop Patrol and Discussion of Buffers and Grassed Waterways. Tentative Date April 20, Addison, 1-3 pm. For more information contact Nate (802-388-4969 ext. 348).
Grazing Cover Crops and Harvesting Cover Crops for Forage. Upcoming events for early to mid May, details to be determined. For more information contact Nate (802-388-4969 ext. 348).
More information or questions about any of these events can be obtained by contacting our office.
802-388-4969 ~ 23 Pond Lane, Suite 300 Middlebury, VT 05753
Events hosted by other affiliates:
Dairy Science and Sanitation. May 10-11, 8:30 am-5 pm, UVM, Burlington, VT. Hosted by the UVM Extension and Cornell University. More information can be found here.
The New RAP rules come into effect this year, and vegetative buffer requirements are in effect starting April 15, 2017. To see the entire list of RAP rule effective dates, see this link. Questions should be directed to VAAFM.
Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) classes have been a major emphasis of activity for the past months and 31 farmers completed their NMP through
the UVM Extension goCrop™ classes that were held in Richmond, Middlebury and Pawlet. Statewide, over 70 farmers completed the classes offered by the St. Albans and Middlebury Extension Crop teams so farmers can develop their own crop management plans. There are plenty of field meetings, corn planter clinics, farmer manure trainings, stream floodplain restriction discussions, and buffer workshops going on now and more to come this spring, all geared toward how farmers will adopt practices to meet the Required Agricultural Practices (RAP) rules. Stay updated about current events via e-mail: join our email list at www.uvm.edu/extension/cvcrops.
We will be starting some new projects this year with financial support from the NRCS Vermont Conservation Innovation Grant Program; the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets; and the Northeast SARE program to continue our work with local farmers. One study
will start a benchmark program for the economics of growing cover crops and using no-till for crop planting. What is the true cost and benefit of moving to no-till with cover, and then how profitable are you? We need better data about the Vermont farms who have changed to these new crop systems to be sure of the right investments for your particular farm. Starting with a handful of farms who have agreed to provide the details
about their operations, the data from this project will reflect current finances of these conservation practices as they are used here on our soils.
Whole-farm phosphorus (P) mass balance has been around for some time,
but few farms complete the accounting of where the extra P comes from. We have a project to work with several farmers and their feed consultants to collect data on the extent of P imported to local dairy farms. This is good information to have, but really the issue is what to do then? Not all P is leaving the farms, and that is why farmers use the P-Index to better understand the risk of P loss and “plug” any leaks in the farm system.
We will be field testing the new 2017 Vermont P-Index and a new Northeast P-Index on several farms and relate that data to whole-farm P-Mass balances and farm conservation. We will collect data to help farmers with crop management decisions under the revised Vermont P-Index. This will then be used to address the NMP 590 standard, which is the basis for all farm nutrient plans. What to do then if you have a high phosphorus soil test? Another study we have is to evaluate the use of field applications of amendments to reduce soil test P in the field. We will be looking at three types of gypsum, including one with humates, also contrasted with short-paper fiber (SPF). When spring does get here, we
will also see how good the cover crops perform that we planted last fall.
VERMONT RAP RULES
The Vermont Required Agricultural Practices rules affects all farmers this year, and so it affects our Extension work. Focus on Agriculture means a focus on helping you to learn (like Poop Skool) and then figure out the best next steps to take (whatever that is). Give us a call, or just come to the meetings that we host with the Champlain Valley Farmer Coalition.
This is a great way to keep up with new ideas so you can deal with changing times in Vermont agriculture.