U.S. Census of Agriculture Data to Assist Decision Making

Stacey Hofmann, Chief of Community Relations, Delaware Department of Agriculture; Stacey.Hofmann@delaware.gov

On April 11 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Delaware office announced the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture with new information about 2,302 Delaware farms and ranches and those who operate them, including first-time data about on-farm decision making, at the state and county level.

“Agriculture continues to play an important role in Delaware’s economy. I want to thank all of our family farmers who took the time to participate in the 2017 U.S. Census of Agriculture,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “The information our farmers provided in the Census will help local and federal legislators, businesses, and others make informed decisions, especially on federal programs, that will directly impact our farms.”

Census data provide valuable insights into demographics, economics, land and activities on U.S. farms and ranches. Some key state highlights include:

  • The average age of all producers (a person involved in making decisions for the farm operation) was 57.4 years of age.
  • The number of female producers increased by nearly 12 percent from 2012.
  • The per farm average net income increased from $130,842 in 2012 to $277,316 in 2017.

The new Census data also shows that agriculture remains Delaware’s largest single land use, with 42 percent of Delaware’s land (or 525,324 acres) in farms, up from 508,652 acres in 2012. Poultry production ranked first in the state for market value of agricultural products sold with more than $1.1 billion, with grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas; vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes; nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod; and milk from cows rounding out the top five commodity areas.

“The Census shows new data that can be compared to previous censuses for insights into agricultural trends and changes down to the county level,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We are pleased to share first-time data on topics such as military status and on-farm decision making. To make it easier to delve into the data, we are pleased to make the results available in many online formats including a new data query interface, as well as traditional data tables.”

For the 2017 Census of Agriculture, NASS changed the demographic questions to better represent the roles of all persons involved in on-farm decision making. As a result, in 2017 the number of all producers in Delaware was 3,907 up from 3,789 producers in 2012.

Other demographic highlights include:

  • New and beginning producers with 10 years or less of farming comprised of 851 producers.
  • Published for the first time, producers with military service encompassed 390 producers.

The Census tells the story of American agriculture and is an important part of our history. First conducted in 1840 in conjunction with the decennial Census, the Census of Agriculture accounts for all U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. After 1920, the Ag Census happened every four to five years. By 1982, it was regularly conducted once every five years. Today, NASS sends questionnaires to nearly 3 million potential U.S. farms and ranches. Nearly 25 percent of those who responded did so online. Conducted since 1997 by USDA NASS – the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture – it remains the only source of comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county in the nation and is invaluable for planning the future.

Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, maps, and traditional data tables. All Census of Agriculture information is available at www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.

Assistance Available to Delaware Farmers through the Updated Conservation Stewardship Program

Sign up deadline of May 10, 2019

Delaware farmers are encouraged to sign up by May 10 for financial and technical assistance to take their voluntary conservation activities to a higher level. Assistance is now available through the updated Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land.

Through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques, Delaware farmers will address the state’s priority resource concerns. These include soil quality degradation, water quality degradation, insufficient water, degraded plant condition and air quality impacts. On-farm benefits include increased crop yields, decreased inputs, wildlife population improvements; and better resilience to weather variables.

Delaware has 78 active CSP contracts on 67,000 acres of private lands. “CSP continues to be a valuable tool in helping our farmers implement a higher level of conservation activity to achieve their management goals,” said Kasey L. Taylor, Delaware State Conservationist.

The 2018 Farm Bill made several changes to this critical conservation program that will benefit Delaware farmers. Highlights include:

  • Enrollment of eligible, high ranking applications based on dollars (not acres) to cover part of the cost for implementing new conservation activities and maintaining current practices.
  • Higher payment rates for certain conservation measures, including cover crops and resource conserving crop rotations.
  • Specific support for organic operations and those transitioning to organic production.

Producers interested in CSP should contact their local USDA service center. In Delaware’s Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext. 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3. Or visit the Conservation Stewardship Program webpage for more information.

New Mandatory Paraquat Training (Provided by EPA Office of Pesticide Programs)

Mark VanGessel, Extension Weed Specialist; mjv@udel.edu

A new certified applicator training module for paraquat (also known as Gramoxone) is now available. The training was developed by paraquat manufacturers as part of EPA’s 2016 risk mitigation requirements and approved by EPA.

Paraquat is one of the most widely used herbicides in the U.S. for weed control in many agricultural and non-agricultural settings and is also used as a harvest aid. Paraquat is a restricted use pesticide for use only by a certified applicator. The restriction applies to mixing, loading, and applying paraquat, as well as other pesticide handling activities.

Since 2000, 17 deaths have been caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat. Many of these deaths were as a result of people illegally transferring the pesticide to beverage containers, and the victim later mistaking it for a drink. A single sip can be fatal. In addition to the deaths by accidental ingestion, three more deaths and many severe injuries have been caused by the pesticide getting onto the skin or into the eyes of those working with it.

To help prevent these tragedies, certified applicators must now take paraquat-specific training before use. The training emphasizes that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers. The training also covers paraquat toxicity, new label requirements and restrictions, consequences of misuse, and other important information.

The requirement for training is only one of several actions EPA has taken to prevent poisonings, including making label changes, restricting the use of all paraquat products to certified applicators only, and requiring closed-system packaging for all non-bulk (less than 120 gallon) end use product containers of paraquat.

Training module can be found at: https://campus.extension.org/course/view.php?id=1660

List of FAQs at EPA website: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/paraquat-dichloride-training-certified-applicators

Mitigation decision and other supporting documents at www.regulations.gov under docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0855.

Guess the Pest! Week 2

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, owensd@udel.edu

Test your pest management knowledge by clicking on the GUESS THE PEST logo and submitting your best guess. For the 2019 season, we will have an “end of season” raffle for a $100.00 gift card. Each week, one lucky winner will also be selected for a prize and have their name entered not once but five times into the end of season raffle. A lucky winner will also receive a heavy duty sweep net.

Why are we concerned when we see these?

To submit your guess, click the Guess the Pest logo or go to: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfUPYLZnTRsol46hXmgqj8fvt5f8-JI0eEUHb3QJaNDLG_4kg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Guess the Pest! Week 1 Answer: Cabbage White

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, owensd@udel.edu

Congratulations to Joe Streett for correctly identifying last week’s Guess the Pest challenge as cabbage white, also known as the imported cabbageworm. Joe won a heavy duty sweep net for catching the butterflies and will be entered for the end of season raffle along with all others who submitted correct answers. This is one of the early harbingers of spring. I saw my first April 1 and it is now the most common butterfly out. It is a Brassica specialist. Females lay eggs on wild mustard, brassica cover crops like turnip or radish, and cultivated brassicas such as broccoli and cabbage which are being transplanted now. Larvae are green, about an inch long, and fuzzy. They are easiest to find when ‘hiding’ on the leaf’s upper midrib. Pre heading, brassicas can tolerate a good deal of defoliation (30% infested plants), but once heading initiates, thresholds for this and other defoliating worms drop to 5%.

Funding Available to Help Delaware Farmers Improve Water Quality in Select Watersheds

Funding is available for Delaware farmers in the Choptank, Nanticoke, and Pocomoke watersheds to conserve and protect their land as part of the Delmarva Whole System Conservation Partnership – Field to Stream project. This effort focuses on effective nutrient management practices that will improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat. Farmers interested in applying are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center by April 19, 2019.

More than $58,000 is available to help farmers implement advanced nutrient management practices including variable rate nutrient application, autosteer, grid or zone soil sampling, nitrogen inhibitors, and tools that predict in-season nitrogen needs. These targeted practices will ensure the right amount, right source, right placement, and right timing of commercial fertilizers, manure, soil amendments, and organic by-products are properly land applied. These practices not only protect soil and water quality but also air quality and enhance native habitats.

The Delmarva Whole System Conservation Partnership – Field to Stream project is a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project led by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Delaware Maryland Agribusiness Association (DMAA). Now in its fourth year, the project is working to increase the implementation of advanced nutrient management practices to reduce excess nutrients to the Chesapeake Bay. The project also uses science-based targeting of these practices to increase their effectiveness.

RCPP is administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and promotes coordination between the agency and its partners to deliver conservation assistance to producers and landowners. The Delmarva Whole System Conservation Partnership covers both Delaware and Maryland and brings additional resources to Delaware.

Interested producers must submit an application on or before April 19, 2019. Contact your local USDA Service Center for more information. In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext. 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3. Additional information on NRCS programs and services is available at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.

Funding Available to Protect Delaware Wetlands

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Delaware is now accepting applications from landowners interested in protecting Delaware’s wetlands through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance through the Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) component of ACEP to restore, protect and enhance wetlands. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis, but the deadline to apply for fiscal year 2019 funding is April 19, 2019.

WRE applicants must have farm records established with USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the land should have been owned for two years. Properties eligible for WRE include farmed wetlands that can be successfully and economically restored; former or degraded wetlands with a history of agricultural use; wetlands farmed under natural conditions; and “prior-converted” cropland converted on or before December 23, 1985. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land established with trees may also be eligible for enrollment through a waiver process.

Landowners have two options under WRE:

Permanent Easements – NRCS pays 100 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement. Additionally, NRCS pays up to 100 percent of the restoration costs.

30-Year Easements – NRCS pays the landowner 50 to 75 percent of the easement value for the purchase of the easement and 50 to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

“Conserving wetlands has tremendous benefits in Delaware including improvements to water quality as well as safeguarding wildlife habitat,” said Kasey Taylor, Delaware State Conservationist. “I encourage our farmers to engage with their local conservationists to learn more as conserving wetlands may be closer to you and more beneficial than expected.”

Applications are available at your local USDA Service Center and online at www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted. Learn more about ACEP and other Farm Bill programs at www.de.nrcs.usda.gov/.

USDA Seeks Public Comments on Conservation Practice Standards

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced on March 11, 2019 that it is seeking public input on its existing national conservation practice standards as part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill. NRCS offers 150-plus conservation practices to America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to help them meet their business and natural resource needs on their working lands.

“With the help of NRCS, agricultural producers across the country are taking voluntary steps to improve their operations while benefiting natural resources,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “As part of our process of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, we are asking agricultural producers, conservation partners and others to provide feedback on our practice standards in an effort to refine and enhance them.”

NRCS is requesting public comments on how to improve conservation practice standards that support programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program, which help producers cover part of the costs for implementing these practices. The comment period ends April 25, 2019. More information can be found in the Federal Register.

These standards provide guidelines for planning, designing, installing, operating and maintaining conservation practices.

2018 Farm Bill
As part of implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, NRCS is reviewing conservation practices by:

  • Evaluating opportunities to increase flexibility while ensuring natural resource benefits.
  • Seeking avenues for the optimal balance between meeting site-specific conservation needs and minimizing risks of design failure and associated construction and installation costs.
  • Ensuring, to the maximum extent practicable, the completeness and relevance of the standards to local agricultural, forestry and natural resource needs, including specialty crops, native and managed pollinators, bioenergy crop production, forestry and others.

Providing Comments
Comments may be submitted using any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail or hand-delivery:Public Comments Processing, Attention: National Environmental Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Room 6130-S, Washington, DC 20250.

NRCS will use comments as part of updating standards. For more information on how NRCS is implementing the Farm Bill, visit farmers.gov/farmbill.

Using Degree Days to Predict Insect Life Cycles

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, owensd@udel.edu

Because insects generally have limited mechanisms of regulating their temperature, insect development and life history is tied to ambient temperature. This enables certain life history events to be predicted fairly accurately. The easiest way to calculate degree days is DD = (max temp + min temp)/2 – Insect base temperature. A negative number counts as a 0. For example, seedcorn maggot’s base temperature is 39, if a day’s high was 50, low 30 then DD = (50+30)/2 – 39 = 1. This week in Georgetown, we hit peak overwintering seedcorn maggot adult activity (base 39, DD target 360, start Jan 1). Fields with recent manure incorporation may have maggot eggs in them. Other insects of interest are as follows:

Alfalfa weevil DD = 200–300, base 48°F.

San Jose scale DD = 380, base 51°F. Start sampling at DD 300. Maximum crawler activity DD 600.

Cereal leaf beetle egg lay DD = 327, base 46°F.

Welcome to Extension Plant Pathologist, Dr. Alyssa Koehler

Alyssa Koehler, Extension Field Crops Pathologist; akoehler@udel.edu

My name is Alyssa Koehler and I am the new UD Field Crops Extension Plant Pathologist. I look forward to meeting everyone and working with you and the Extension team at Carvel to help address plant disease issues in Delaware. I began working in plant pathology in 2009. I worked in a nematology lab for three years, spent a summer working with fungal diseases of pineapple, and worked with USDA APHIS developing pest risk models. I then went on to complete my Master’s degree at North Carolina State University working on diseases of tobacco and Rhizoctonia species in home lawn turfgrass. As part of my M.S., I began working with a new crop called stevia. This project continued to develop and I completed my Ph.D. at NCSU researching diseases of stevia and assessing its viability as a new specialty crop in the US.

The main goal of my research is to reduce crop loss due to disease through applied field trials and laboratory investigations to better understand host biology. I joined UD in October 2018 and look forward to my first full field season here working with soilborne and foliar pathogens in small grains, corn, and soybeans. This year I will be conducting fungicide efficacy trials and will be active around the state surveying for soilborne pathogens in soybeans. My office is located at the Carvel Center in Georgetown. You can reach me at akoehler@udel.edu or (302) 856.1845, ext 571. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.