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Conservation Assistance

Delaware farmers may apply for conservation assistance

First application cutoff date date is Oct. 21
September 25, 2016

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications from Delaware farmers and forest landowners who want to further enhance the sustainability of their land. Farmers can apply now for financial assistance to address natural resource concerns through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program  and Agricultural Management Assistance program. The first application cutoff date for fiscal year 2017 is Friday, Oct. 21, for both EQIP and AMA.

Assistance is available through EQIP to help farmers plan and implement conservation practices to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland. Popular practices include waste storage structures, heavy use area pads, energy, cover crops, irrigation water management and more. Delaware has also placed an emphasis on several EQIP initiatives including the Organic Initiative and High Tunnel in FY 2017 by setting aside separate funding pools for each.

In FY 2016, Delaware approved 189 EQIP contracts for a total of $7.9 million. AMA provides assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water quality, water management and erosion control through identified conservation practices. These include, but are not limited to, nutrient management, cover crops, poultry windbreaks, proper manure storage, composters and conservation cover. NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at application cut-off deadlines.

Producers with applications in before Oct. 21 will have a higher chance of application approval as funding is limited. Additional application cutoff dates are scheduled for the third Friday of each month until May 19, 2017. Eligible producers with a conservation plan for their operation receive priority for financial assistance. NRCS staff is available to help producers create conservation plans. For more information for Sussex County farmers, call 302-856-3990, Ext 3 or go to www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.

Build silage piles correctly

By Jim Dickrell 

With large crops of forages coming off fields this fall in many areas, some farmers might be storing silage in piles for the first time.

Constructing these piles correctly spells the difference between having good quality forage or a spoiled mess, says Jerry Clark, an Extension soil and water educator in Chippewa County, Wis.

“Without proper packing, silage losses can easily exceed 30% of ensiled dry matter,” he says. “With proper management, silage piles serve as a short-term storage option with dry matter losses as low as 15%.”

The first step is to construct storage piles on a solid, well-drained surface. Concrete or asphalt slabs are preferred. Barring that, well packed surfaces underlain by geotextile fabric can work. The pads should be constructed above existing ground level to ensure rainfall and silage seepage runoff, Clark says.

“To ensure well safety and prevent water contamination, silage piles should be at least 100′ away and down slope from any existing well,” he adds. “On lighter soils, or with shallow well depths, this distance should be even greater.”

Piles should be constructed using the wedge method, with a 3:1 maximum side slope for safety. “Systems that have steep side slopes will [also] have inadequate sideslope packing and appreciably higher silage losses on the side,” Clark explains.

Forages should be added to the pile in thin layers no more than 6″ in depth. Forage moisture should be at least 65% to 70% at ensiling to improve packing.

“When constructing the pile, plan for at least 12″ of feed removal per day,” he says. Such a feed out rate is needed to minimize spoilage, though lower rates can be removed during cold weather.

“Therefore, when planning for a 270-day (nine month) feed storage period, the length of all piles should add up to 270′ long.”

Piles should also be covered as soon after the pile is completed as possible A 6-mil black plastic sheet should be used, weighted down with tires over the entire surface, and sealed along the sides of pile.

Overtime for Farm Workers

California first U.S. state to promise overtime to farmworkers

California will become the first U.S. state to require farmers to pay overtime to field workers, milkers, feedlot cowboys and fruit pickers under a bill signed on Monday by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

The bill would phase in overtime pay for farmworkers from 2019 to 2022. In an industry where a work week during the harvest season can be as long as 60 hours, the measure requires farmers to pay overtime after eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

“We’re shedding tears of joy right now,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers Union, which lobbied for years for an eight-hour day for agricultural employees.

The new law, part of a sweeping liberal agenda that passed in the last months of the 2015-2016 legislative session, ends an exemption meant to benefit farmers during the Depression-era implementation of the nation’s first wage and hour laws.

It will make California the first state to require overtime for farmworkers who work more than eight hours per day. Under a 1970s executive action, farmworkers in the state get overtime after a 60 hour week or a 10-hour day, leading to long, backbreaking shifts and six-day work weeks, Rodriguez said.

California employs an estimated 800,000 seasonal farmworkers, about a third of the agricultural industry’s nationwide workforce, according to the University of California report. Its agricultural economy is the largest in the United States, with $47 billion in revenue last year, according to state data.

Other states and the federal government continue to exempt farmworkers from overtime and other protections. Supporters, including Latino lawmakers whose parents and grandparents worked in the fields as migrant laborers from Mexico, say the change rectifies years of unfair practices.

But opponents, including many farmers and most Republican lawmakers, said that agricultural work is seasonal, with 60-hour weeks during the harvest and planting seasons, and no work at all during other parts of the year.

Requiring overtime, these opponents say, would be prohibitively expensive, leading farmers to cut back hours for pickers during a time when the workers need to earn more to make up for months of unemployment during other parts of the year.

“Farmers, ranchers and growers cannot afford this mandate,” said state Senator Jim Nielsen, who represents agricultural and suburban areas north of Sacramento.

Farms employing fewer than 25 people would have three additional years to comply with the new law.

New mobile app for pricing standing corn silage

The start of corn silage harvest for 2016 is just around the corner.  In 2015, nearly a quarter of all four million acres of corn planted in WI were harvested as silage with an estimated market value between a quarter and a half billion dollars.  However, like hay, there’s no established commodity market for corn silage like there is for corn or soybeans.  Pricing standing corn silage is even more difficult than pricing standing hay, because the seller often has the option of letting the corn crop mature and marketing it for grain, but harvest and storage costs must be considered as well.

To help determine a fair price when buying or selling corn silage, UW-Extension agriculture agents Greg Blonde and Ryan Sterry teamed up with Smart mAPPS Consulting to develop a new free Android app that can quickly estimate the value of standing corn silage.  It’s based off a detailed spreadsheet Sterry developed with input from several state Extension specialists (Shaver, Lauer, Linn).  The app includes links to current corn and hay market prices and allows buyers and sellers to enter their own yield estimates and harvest costs.  The difference in value of soil nutrients removed when harvesting silage versus corn for grain is also calculated helping sellers fine tune their standing value per acre.  The app is free and available for Android smart phones and tablets at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smartmappsconsulting.cornsilagepricing&hl=en or just search the Google Play Store for “Corn Silage Pricing”.

According to Blonde and Sterry, “The Corn Silage Pricing mobile app not only allows farmers, Extension Educators and other Ag professionals to access current market information for both grain and hay at the same time, it’s  a convenient tool to determine the value of standing silage for buyers and sellers alike.”  The app features separate tabs for buyer and seller calculations.  Using both tabs will show the range in silage value, with the Seller tab being a price ‘floor” and the Buyer tab a price “ceiling”.

“Pricing Standing Hay” and “Pricing Wet Corn” are also available at no cost on the Google Play Store.  For more information contact Greg Blonde, 715-258-6230, greg.blonde@ces.uwex.edu, or Ryan Sterry, 715-531-1930, ryan.sterry@ces.uwex.edu.