The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced funding under the new Farm Bill to train and educate the next generation of farmers and ranchers. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, or B-F-R-D-P, will help a new generation get into agriculture. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden says the USDA will help train and educate new farmers and ranchers with $100 million from the new Farm Bill.
“The average age of our farmers is 58 years old. So, we need the bench,” Harden says. “We need to get folks coming into agriculture who either grew up on a farm or are thinking about coming back, but also folks who don’t know much about agriculture, but who have that drive, that passion, who want to get into farming or ranching.” Part of BFRDP’s funding will help limited-resource and socially disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers and military veterans get started.
“We’re targeting these groups of folks to give them the very special tools they may need, the uniqueness of their questions or concerns that they may have and getting into agriculture, so it’s really a target of funds to these areas,” Harden says. Earlier this year, the USDA reported there were 88,631 farms in Iowa in 2012. That represented a 6.6 percent drop from 2007. Iowa still ranks third among the states in the total number of farms – behind only Texas and Missouri. The average age for an Iowa farmer is about 63.
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – There are varying degrees of drought conditions in the Plains region, but a National Weather Service hydrologist says predicted above-normal rain this spring might ease some of the problem. Mike Gillispie in Sioux Falls expects improvement in parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. Some people in the agriculture industry and with municipal water supplies are still wary.
Nathan Fields with the National Corn Growers Association says that during the 2012 drought, he learned how quickly it can set in and affect crop production. Parts of eastern South Dakota are abnormally dry. The stretch from southern Minnesota and Iowa through Nebraska is facing moderate drought. Conditions worsen toward the south, as parts of Texas and Oklahoma are in the middle of an ongoing drought. There’s no drought in North Dakota.
The number of deer donated to a Department of Natural Resources program that uses the meat to feed the hungry in the state dropped by 15-percent this year. Hunters still donated 39-hundred deer to the “Help Us Stop Hunger” or HUSH program. The D-N-R’s Jim Coffey oversees HUSH and says hunters have been very generous over the last decade. “The Hush program has been very popular with our hunters, they see direct benefit back to local communities and helping needy families,” Coffey says.
He says the drop in deer donations compared to last year amounts to around 30-tons of ground venison. “Most likely the donations are down because the deer population is down,” Coffey says, “also beef prices are up, so it’s more like that people keeping more for themselves.” Coffey says the D-N-R’s efforts to reduce the deer population have worked. “We’ve been more liberal with the harvest of the doe deer. And obviously, the does are the ones that produce the next year’s offspring. So, when we’re harvesting additional does, that means were producing less deer into the population next year.”
The Food Bank of Iowa coordinates distribution of the deer meat and is replacing the loss of venison with other protein, like canned chicken, or even peanut butter. Hunters in the program have donated some 60-thousand deer in 10 years — which is the equivalent of nearly 11 million meals (10.8 million).
Burn Bans which had been in-place in Fremont and Pottawattamie Counties were lifted Monday, due to the recent wet conditions. The Fremont County ban on open burning had been in effect since March 18th, while the ban in Pottawattamie County was in-place since March 19th.
Burn bans remain in effect for Mills, Montgomery and Page Counties, until further notice.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has awarded grants to two fueling sites in an effort to expand access higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. The Oak Street Station in Inwood and Farmers Cooperative in Mount Ayr will each receive $125,000 as part of the Fueling Our Future initiative.
Farmers Cooperative will construct a new fueling site to provide different ethanol and biodiesel blends. It also will receive $100,000 through the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure program.
The Oak Street Station will build a new site offering five renewable fuel dispensers.
Branstad says in a statement that supporting these projects will help grow the local economy as well.
DEWITT, Iowa – With the coming start of the growing season in Iowa, a group of volunteer “drift catchers” is preparing to spread out across the state to monitor the air for floating pesticides. Among the group is Greg King, who grows vegetables, fruits and flowers in rural DeWitt, and had some problems with agricultural drift last spring. “It was later found out to be drift of glyphosate or Round-Up,” he said. “It affected one of our crops, which was tomatoes, and they’re extremely sensitive. It also affected some of the trees in our yard, curling up the leaves and in one case, one of the plants died.”
According to Practical Farmers of Iowa, there were nearly 200 reported instances of pesticide drift in the state last year, although many go unseen and unreported. King said one way rural residents and horticulture farmers can minimize the potential for pesticide drift damage is to get on the sensitive crops registry, a directory compiled by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship for use by pesticide applicators.
“And it gives the various sprayers in the area an opportunity to look up your particular address in the area where they’re going to be spraying and a chance to realize that perhaps they need to be more diligent,” King said. Beehives can also be registered with the state.
King said that when pesticide applicators know they’re working in a sensitive area, they do have options to minimize drift.
“They can slow the machines down, slow the pumps down, drop the booms. There are several things that can work in conjunction with what I might do on my side of the fence,” he said. “And in my case with a high tunnel, I would drop the sides down, close it off, turn the ventilation fans off, and that type of thing.” A high tunnel is a sort of greenhouse made of plastic sheeting supported by frames.
King urged those who want to get on the registry to act before May 1, since the start of the month is frequently when applicators will review the sensitive-crops list.
Information on the sensitive-crop registry is at IowaAgriculture.gov. Details on the drift-catcher program are at PANNA.org.
Water safety experts are warning canoers, kayakers and boaters that Iowa’s bodies of water have been slow to warm. Certified paddling instructor Darrin Siefken, of Waverly, says even though the air temperature feels spring-like, the water can be ice cold and dangerous. “Our rivers and lakes here in northeast Iowa just thawed out within the last week. So, most of those water temperatures are only about 50 degrees…when the air temperature is in the 60s or so.”
“It’s a good opportunity to dress properly and bring along another set of clothes in a dry bag just in case you would tip over,” Siefken said. Kayaking is becoming increasingly popular in Iowa. Charles City has a world-class course built in 2011 and similar venues are under construction in Manchester and Elkader. Siefken instructs his students, before they hit the water, to let others know where they’re going and when they expect to return.
“And then make sure you follow up and tell them when you get back…it helps with today’s technology that we can get a hold of people pretty easy,” Siefken said. He warns that many rivers in Iowa are full of debris that has washed downstream and could cause navigation problems.
GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa (AP) – Environmental specialists with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources are investigating following the crash of ammonia tanks into a western Iowa creek. The department says dead fish were discovered downstream from where two anhydrous ammonia tanks and a tractor fell into Brushy Creek north of Guthrie Center on Friday. The driver of the tractor, 34-year old Michael Haag, of Adair, was transported by Guthrie Center Rescue to the Guthrie County Hospital.
The John Deere 9510R tractor was pulling a disc and the two tanks when an old wooden bridge it was crossing on Oak Avenue, between 200th and 210th Street, collapsed, and the equipment fell into the creek. Investigators determined that the valves of the tanks had been shut off and that there was no fuel leaking from the tractor, but that some ammonia leaked into the water.
Some dead fish and elevated ammonia levels were found as far downstream as Monteith, about five miles southeast of Guthrie Center.
Coordinators of a grant related to local farmers markets are looking for public input. The Cass County Local Food Policy Council received a USDA grant late last year to support and promote farmers markets as access points for local grown food. The grant committee is in the process of holding community meetings to get ideas and suggestions from interested local residents and businesses.
Organizers have already met with groups in Anita and Massena to discuss support for community farmers markets. The Atlantic community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15th, from 4:30 to 6 PM in the meeting room at the Atlantic Chamber. Anyone interested in supporting or helping with local markets like the “Produce in the Park” project that has happened for the last two summers is welcome to attend to learn more and give their input.
Those who are unable to attend are still welcome to contact organizers LaVon Eblen, Lora Kanning at Cass County Conservation, Teddi Grindberg at the YMCA or Kate Olson at the Cass County Extension Office to share ideas or express interest in being involved with the project.
Warmer temperatures combined with strong winds and dry conditions lead to more brush and wild-land fires across the state. These types of fires can pose a serious threat to lives and property. The National Fire protection Association (NFPA) has reported over 59 million acres have been burned by wildfires in the past decade. While Iowa is not known to have large wildfires like those that regularly affect western states, our state is still prone to dangerous brush fires created by dry conditions, strong winds and low humidity.
To prevent the spread of brush fires and other debris, the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office suggests keeping in mind:
Check for county burn bans, city restrictions and with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Air Quality before conducting any open burning; Never burn on dry and windy days; Have water and tools on hand to extinguish anything that may escape the burn area; Do NOT burn alone, always have another person with you; Do NOT leave a fire unattended; Call 911 immediately if a fire does get out of hand.
And, if you have questions about outdoor fire safety, contact the Iowa Department of Public Safety – State Fire Marshal Division at (515) 725-6145 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.