Farm bill educational meetings to be held across Georgia

A free series of educational meetings to teach farmers and landowners about the 2014 Farm Bill have been set for December.

Don Shurley and Nathan Smith, University of Georgia agricultural economists based on the UGA Tifton Campus, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency, will conduct the meetings throughout Georgia, beginning on Friday, Dec. 12, in Fort Valley.

“The farm bill has changes that are going to require producers and owners to make decisions over the next two or three months. There are a lot of options and flexibility in terms of this farm bill and decisions for people to make. It’s somewhat complicated and there are a lot of questions out there,” Smith said. “We’re trying to provide these educational programs to help them understand what those decisions are and provide some information that people can use.”

Meetings are also set for Tifton and Bainbridge on Monday, Dec. 15, Dawson and Quitman on Tuesday, Dec. 16, Vidalia and Waynesboro on Wednesday, Dec. 17, Cartersville and Hull on Thursday, Dec. 18, and Alma on Friday, Dec. 19. Registration is required, but there is no cost for participants.

A similar set of meetings was held last spring after the farm bill was initially announced. Those meetings focused on the bill’s contents. According to Shurley, this month’s meetings are aimed at helping producers and landowners make key decisions regarding their respective farming operations.

“We’re going to be talking about what choices the farmer and the landowner have to make, presenting information to help them understand what’s in the farm bill and giving them information to help them understand how to make decisions,” Shurley said.

Topics to be covered include timelines for decision-making and who has to make the decisions; how payment yields can be updated; crop history and how the reallocation of base acres works; the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), the new crop insurance safety net for cotton; and resources and other tools that are available to assist in decision-making.

Who makes the decisions may sound like an easy question to answer, but Shurley explains this isn’t always the case.

“If I’m the farmer, but you own the farm, and I’m renting the farm from you, a lot of these decisions you have to make, but you can’t make them without information from the producer about the crop history and yield history,” Shurley said. “A farmer that may be farming two dozen serial numbers is not unusual. A total farm may be 1,500 acres, but it may be 100 acres here, 121 acres there, 300 acres here. The decisions have to be made on each of those farms independently.”

The times of the meetings vary at each location. Contact the local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 for specific times and registration details. The meetings that begin at 9:30 a.m. will conclude with lunch at noon. Meetings with a 4 p.m. starting time will conclude with dinner at 6:30 p.m.

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Signup for wetlands and agriculture land conservation easements ends Dec. 18

The USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph, for Georgia announced a sign-up for this year’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) Oct. 3. To be considered for the fiscal year 2015 program, applications must be submitted by December 18, 2014.

ACEP, created through the 2014 Farm Bill, is a program that has two components, known as Agricultural Land Easements (ALE) and Wetlands Reserve Easements (WRE). ACEP combines NRCS’ former Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

The ACEP-WRE applications are accepted directly from producers on eligible lands. These easements would restore and enhance wetlands and improve habitat. Eligible lands include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored. Applications will be rated according to the easement’s potential for protecting and enhancing habitat for migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.

Applications for the ACEP-ALE are accepted from eligible partners. These eligible entities may submit proposals to NRCS to acquire a conservation easement on eligible agricultural land. NRCS does not accept applications for ACEP-ALE directly from producers. Producers will need to work with an eligible entity to pursue funding for an ACEP-ALE conservation easement. Some examples of eligible entities include county Board of Commissioners, Land Trusts and Land Conservancies.

Applications must be submitted to Georgia NRCS by December 18, 2014 for both ACEP-ALE and ACEP-WRE. Applications are available at your local USDA Service Center and at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. You can learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs in Georgia at http://www.ga.nrcs.usda.gov.

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Alabama Farmers Federation elects board of directors

The Alabama Farmers Federation elected members to its board of directors Dec. 8. Front row, from left, are District 9 Director Garry Henry; State Women's Committee Chairman Cheryl Lassiter; State Young Farmers Committee Chairman Garrett Henry; District 3 Director Phillip Thompson; and District 6 Director Dell Hill. Back row, from left, are Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell; Southeast Area Vice President George Jeffcoat; District 12 Director Fred Helms; and North Area Vice President Rex Vaughn.

The Alabama Farmers Federation elected members to its board of directors Dec. 8. Front row, from left, are District 9 Director Garry Henry; State Women’s Committee Chairman Cheryl Lassiter; State Young Farmers Committee Chairman Garrett Henry; District 3 Director Phillip Thompson; and District 6 Director Dell Hill. Back row, from left, are Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell; Southeast Area Vice President George Jeffcoat; District 12 Director Fred Helms; and North Area Vice President Rex Vaughn.

Jimmy Parnell of Stanton in Chilton County was re-elected president of the state’s largest farm organization during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s 93rd annual meeting in Montgomery today. Elections were held this afternoon during the Federation’s business session, where 500 delegates from Alabama’s 67 counties cast their votes.

Parnell, a fifth-generation farmer who raises timber and beef cattle, was unopposed in his bid for re-election to a second two-year term. He said he enjoyed his first term as president and looks forward to representing Alabama farm families in the future as the Federation works to strengthen agriculture’s position as the state’s largest industry.

“I am honored by the faith and trust that farm families across this state have placed in me,” Parnell said following his election. “Our state is blessed with a rich agricultural history that helped shape the very foundation of our society. But what’s exciting about agriculture in Alabama is the potential it provides for our future. We are blessed with abundant natural resources and the hardest-working people I know. I’m excited to see what’s in store for our state and this organization.”

Southeast Area Vice President George Jeffcoat of Gordon in Houston County and North Area Vice President Rex Vaughan of Huntsville in Madison County also were re-elected for two-year terms at today’s meeting.

Elections also were held for four district board positions, which have three-year terms. Those elected include Phillip Thompson of Scottsboro in Jackson County (District 3), Dell Hill of Alpine in Talladega County (District 6), Garry Henry of the Hope Hull Community in Montgomery County (District 9) and Fred Helms of Dothan in Houston County (District 12).

Elected to one-year, ex-officio terms on the state board were Women’s Leadership Committee Chairman Cheryl Lassiter of Silas in Choctaw County and State Young Farmers Chairman Garrett Henry of Hope Hull in Montgomery County.

The Alabama Farmers Federation, with 358,000 members, is Alabama’s largest farm organization and a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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Nominations open for Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer Award

gpcbasflogoNominations are now open for the Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer. The state winner will be announced at the Georgia Peanut Farm Show on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, in Tifton, Ga. The award is sponsored by the Georgia Peanut Commission and BASF.

“BASF is honored to be a sponsor of the Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut  Farmer Award,” says Dan Watts, District manager of Crop Protection Products. “We are committed to agriculture and bringing new innovative solutions to producers  that will allow them to continue to be successful.”

The Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer Award is based upon the applicant’s overall farm operation; environmental and stewardship practices; and leadership, civic, church, and community service activities.

“We have so many young peanut farmers making a difference in their communities and I consider this awards program a great opportunity to recognize one young peanut farmer for their contributions to the agriculture industry,” says Armond Morris, chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission (GPC).

The award is open for any active Georgia peanut farmer who is not over 45 years of age, as of January 15, 2015. An individual may receive the award only once. There is no limit on the number of applicants from each county in Georgia.

Applications are due to the GPC office by Friday, Jan. 2, 2015. The award application is available online at the GPC Web site, www.gapeanuts.com, or by contacting Joy Crosby at 229-386-3690 or joycrosby@gapeanuts.com.

Previous winners include Randy Branch of Baxley, Ga.; James Hitchcock Jr. of Tennille, Ga., Brad Thompson of Donalsonville, Ga.; Greg Mims of Donalsonville, Ga.; Jim Waters of Blackshear, Ga. and Jimmy Webb of Leary, Ga. The award winner receives registration and hotel accommodations to attend the Southern Peanut Growers Conference in July and a sign to display at his or her farm.

Download application (pdf) (Microsoft Word)

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UGA Exension plant pathologist cautions peanut farmers about tomato spotted wilt virus

TSWV

This picture shows tomato spotted wilt virus damage in peanuts in 2011. Image credit: Tim Brenneman/UGA.

A University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist is urging Georgia peanut farmers to plant a month earlier next year to keep the threat of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) at bay. In 1997, TSWV caused widespread damage to Georgia’s peanut crops. Peanut yields suffered, and the value of the state’s crop was reduced by more than 10 percent. The virus’ impact continues to be felt in 2014, according to UGA researcher Bob Kemerait, who’s based on the UGA Tifton Campus.

He worries that growers have become “complacent” in the fight against the disease.

“The fact that we’re seeing an increase in spotted wilt does not suggest to me in any way we’re going to go back to that period of time (in the late 1990s). What it does do is point out two factors: the first thing is that the disease, which has been quiet for a number of years, has not gone away. It’s still there. Second, and more importantly, as growers plant more resistant varieties, they’ve become complacent in the production practices important to minimizing the risk, and they could get bit by this in the future,” Kemerait said.

TSWV dates back almost 40 years, when it was discovered in peanuts in Texas. It was later found in Louisiana and Alabama. In the 1990s, the virus was detected as a major problem in Georgia-grown peanuts, vegetables and tobacco.

Through resistant cultivars developed at UGA by peanut breeder Bill Branch, the virus’ impact on peanuts was minimal over the next decade. For the last couple of years, though, TSWV appears to have been more severe in peanut fields, and Kemerait is unsure why.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve seen an increase, certainly not to the level it was in 1995 or 1997, but I’m seeing more and getting more reports from growers of tomato spotted wilt virus. We’re not exactly sure why,” Kemerait said. “It’s something we’re aware of. It’s something we’re cautious about.”

Managing TSWV is not as simple as controlling thrips, the tiny insects that transmit the disease. “Managing the thrips through the use of insecticides is not going to reduce severity of tomato spotted wilt,” Kemerait said.

To reduce the virus’ impact, UGA Extension recommends peanut farmers plant in May next year rather than in mid-April, as earlier planted peanuts are more likely to be infested by thrips. Also, planting peanuts at greater plant densities reduces the incidence of the virus, so increased seeding rates are encouraged.

“As an Extension specialist with the University of Georgia, my message and the message of the county agents is: Don’t forget that spotted wilt is out there. Don’t forget that it can affect your crop, and make sure you continue to take steps to reduce the risk,” Kemerait said.

For more information about TSWV in peanuts, see tomatospottedwiltinfo.org.

By Clint Thompson
University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

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Federal agency seeks public comments on Conservation Stewardship Program interim rule

USDA LogoATHENS, GA, November 12, 2014 ­– USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Georgia is seeking public comments on changes to the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) interim final rule. USDA recently announced the publishing of the interim final rule, which contains the statutory changes to CSP in the Federal Register, on Nov. 5. The rule will be open for public comments through Jan. 5, 2015. Interested individuals can submit public comments on the interim final rule on regulations.com. Public comments will be used to finalize the interim final rule before it is published.

The interim final rule is used to implement CSP. This program helps agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities to address priority resources concerns. Participants earn CSP payments for conservation performance—the higher the performance, the higher the payment.

Congress changed CSP in the 2014 Farm Bill and NRCS, the agency that administers CSP, incorporated those changes into this interim rule. These changes are designed to improve the competitive nature of the program, including raising the bar for the quality of projects enrolled and increasing the number of priority resource concerns to be addressed during the term of the CSP contract.

The interim final rule also expands the CSP’s reach to include veteran farmers and ranchers under special funding pools for beginning and socially disadvantaged producers, updates requirements for contract renewal, uses science-based stewardship thresholds to determine program eligibility and success, and expands program enrollmentto include lands protected under the new Agricultural Conservation Easements Program and that are in the last year of the Conservation Reserve Program.

The rule also establishes CSP as one of the programs to help the Regional Conservation Partnership Program accomplish its purposes.

NRCS has also increased flexibility for producers to make minor adjustments to their agricultural operations that will result in the same or better stewardship of the land, and removed extraneous provisions that did not relate to program participant’s rights and responsibilities.

For more information about CSP or other programs in Georgia, visit http://www.ga.nrcs.usda.gov and click on the programs tab.

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October/November 2014 Southeastern Peanut Farmer

octnov_2014cvrwebThe October/November issue of the Southeastern Peanut Farmer is now available for digital reading.

This issue features the:
2014 Planted peanut acreage shows increase
2013 Georgia Peanut Achievement Club Winners
Estate Planning
Crop rotation still needed
Birdsong Peanuts celebrates 100 years
Meet Monfort, new UGA extension agronomist
National Center for Peanut Competitiveness releases “Preliminary Base Acreage and Payment Yields Decision Calculator”
Check off reports from the state grower organizations
Legislative Update
Southern Peanut Growers Update

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Grimes named 2014 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year

2014_philipgrimessewinnerPhilip Grimes, a farmer from Tifton, Georgia, who is known for his conservation practices and high crop yields, has been selected as the overall winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award for 2014.

Grimes was named as the overall winner during the Willie B. Withers Luncheon held during the opening day of the 2014 Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show. Grimes was chosen Farmer of the Year over nine other state winners who were finalists for the award.

Ron Carroll, marketing vice president with Swisher, represented the company in presenting the cash award to Grimes. “Philip’s farming success is a direct result of his hard work,” Carroll says. “The farming profession is blessed to have so many dedicated producers, and there is no doubt that a great farmer has been selected as the overall winner during this 25th year of our Farmer of the Year awards.”

Grimes expressed his appreciation to Swisher and the other award sponsors. “I have a great team of supporters who help me operate my farm,” he says. “I also want to congratulate the other state winners. They are excellent farmers and leaders who are fine representatives of our industry.”

His wife Jane manages the farm’s office and leads some of the farm’s initiatives in marketing produce and in maintaining food safety.

Grimes has farmed for 37 years. He grows peanuts, cotton, cantaloupes, broccoli, snap beans and corn on his 2,210-acre farm. As a result of his high peanut yields, he has been a longtime member of the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club. He also raises high-yield cotton, and his produce crops are consistently high in quality. He plants a portion of his land specifically to attract wildlife.

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New peanut revenue policy introduced for farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a new peanut revenue policy that will be available for eligible peanut producers. The new policy approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) Board of Directors, on Thursday, Sept. 19, offers a new revenue based insurance coverage, previously not available for peanut growers. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency will now be able to make the program available to producers for the 2015 crop and will allow producers to ensure not only against yield loss but also against reductions in revenue.

The Georgia Peanut Commission and the Western Peanut Growers developed the policy under section 508(h) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act, which allows private entities to design and submit crop insurance products to the FCIC Board.

“I have represented the Georgia Peanut Commission on the crop insurance working group for a number of years and I’m pleased to see final approval of revenue insurance options for growers,” says Andy Bell, Georgia Peanut Commission advisory board member and farmer from Climax, Georgia. “The revenue based insurance provides growers with another tool to aid in the production risk of growing peanuts. Also included is an increase in the replant provision and improved quality adjustment provisions which will allow growers the ability to complete a claim at harvest.”

To assist growers with understanding the changes for 2015, information will be included on the Georgia Peanut Commission’s website at www.gapeanuts.com.

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Georgia Peanut Achievement Club Winners

2013_gpacwinners_webDuring the Southern Peanut Growers Conference held this past summer in Panama City Beach, Florida, Philip Grimes, Tift County, was recognized for producing the highest 2013 peanut yield in Georgia as verified by Georgia Extension agricultural agents. Because of his high yields, Grimes has been a member of the Peanut Achievement Club for more than 20 years.

Grimes credits his high yields to the superior genetics bred into productive varieties such as Georgia-06G. “We wouldn’t be where we are without these high yielding varieties,” Grimes says. “I’m really looking forward to trying a new high yielding variety, Georgia-13M.”

Grimes and nine other farmers were recognized as members of the University of Georgia Peanut Achievement Club for 2013. Grimes was the high yield producer with 7,084.6 pounds per acre from 592 acres grown in 2013. Grimes said his 2013 peanuts were the first he grew that yielded more than 7,000 pounds per acre.

Surprisingly, his yield was not the highest in the history of the club. The Dowdy and Gaines Farm in Baker County produced 7,267 pounds per acre from 304.1 acres during the 2011 crop year. Individual Georgia farmers also produced more than 7,000 pounds per year in 2010 and in 1985, according to records reviewed by John Beasley, former University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist who is now an administrator at Auburn University.

The Georgia Peanut Achievement Club winners for their 2013 yields include:
State Winner – Philip Grimes, Tift County, 7,084 pounds per acre
Eddie Miller Jr., Seminole County, 6,949 pounds per acre
Kenneth Brent Brown, Ben Hill County, 6,752 pounds per acre
Hulin Reeves Jr., Ben Hill County, 6,610 pounds per acre
Jimmy Webb, Calhoun County, 6,533 pounds per acre
Al Sudderth, Calhoun County, 6,508 pounds per acre
Jerry Jr. & Jeff Heard Farms, Baker County, 6,010 pounds per acre
Art Dorminy, Irwin County, 6,007 pounds per acre
Wayne Sayer, Irwin County, 5,206 pounds per acre
Ken Hall, Worth County, 5,166 pounds per acre

The Peanut Achievement Club awards are sponsored this year by Syngenta, BASF and Bayer. Bayer is a new sponsor of the achievement club.

Eric Prostko, University of Georgia Extension weed scientist, recognized this year’s top winners. He also paid tribute to University of Georgia research agronomist Scott Tubbs, research assistant John Paulk and administrative associate Dena Watson for their parts in contributing to the Peanut Achievement Club. “Our Extension peanut team is committed to helping our peanut farmers and county Extension agents,” Prostko says.

Local Extension agents also play a vital role for the Peanut Achievement Club in gathering crop input information and in validating the yields of the state’s top yielding peanut farmers.

The Peanut Achievement Club traces its roots to 1950 when it was called the Ton Per Acre Club. The highest yield that year was 2,700 pounds per acre. By 1962, more than a thousand Georgia peanut growers gained admission to the Ton Per Acre Club. The award was later changed to the Money Maker Club. Now it is called the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club.

View the 2013 Georgia Peanut Achievement Club Winners Management Practices
View photos from the awards ceremony

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