Farm Scoop – April 2015

FREE Webinar – Avian Influenza: Reducing Risks for the Northeast

Join Cooperative Extension for an informative webinar: Thursday, April 30, 2015, 7 to 8 p.m.

Hosts: UMCE and the Maine Poultry Growers Association

Join via computer at

Please test your computer beforehand.

USDA Offers Farm Loans for Targeted Underserved Groups

(Bangor, ME, April 28, 2015) – Maine State USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Don Todd III reminds producers that FSA offers specially-targeted farm ownership and farm operating loans to targeted underserved groups. “Farming and ranching is a capital intensive business and FSA is committed to helping producers start and maintain their agricultural operations,“ said SED Todd. In fiscal year 2014, Maine FSA obligated $5.3 million in direct and guaranteed loans to targeted underserved farmers.

FSA defines targeted underserved as those who have not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years, do not own a farm or ranch greater than 30 percent of the average size farm in the county if applying for a farm ownership loan, and who substantially participate in the operation of the farm. Targeted underserved are also defined as applicants as a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of the group without regard to their individual qualities. These groups consist of: American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and women.

Targeted underserved producers who may not be able to obtain commercial credit from a bank can apply for either FSA direct loans or guaranteed loans. Direct loans are made to applicants by FSA. Guaranteed loans are made by lending institutions who arrange for FSA to guarantee the loan. FSA can guarantee up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest on a loan. The FSA guarantee allows lenders to make agricultural credit available to producers who do not meet the lender’s commercial underwriting criteria.

The direct and guaranteed loan program offers two types of loans: farm ownership loans and farm operating loans. Farm ownership loan funds may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way needed in the farm’s operation, build or improve buildings such as a dwelling or barn, promote soil and water conservation and development and pay closing costs. Farm operating loan funds may be used to purchase livestock, poultry, farm equipment, fertilizer, and other materials necessary to operate a successful farm. Operating loan funds can also be used for family living expenses, refinancing debts under certain conditions, paying salaries for hired farm laborers, installing or improving water systems for home, livestock, or irrigation use and other similar improvements.

Repayment terms for direct operating loans depend on the collateral securing the loan and usually run from 1 to 7 years. Financing for direct farm ownership loans cannot exceed 40 years. Interest rates for direct loans are set periodically according to the Government’s cost of borrowing. Guaranteed loan terms and interest rates are set by the lender.

Farmers Must File Conservation Certification Form by June 1

MONMOUTH, Maine — Farmers must file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form with the USDA Farm Service Agency by June 1 to become or remain eligible for premium support on crop insurance policies in 2016.

All farmers, including specialty crop growers who do not participate in other USDA programs, must file certification form AD-1026 to maintain insurance premium support. Anyone with questions about crop insurance, or filing form AD-1026, may contact Erin Roche at University of Maine Cooperative Extension, 207.949.2490. Forms also are available at the FSA USDA website.

Wolfe’s Neck Farm Dairy Training Program

Wolfe’s Neck Farm is now accepting applications for their newly launched an organic dairy farmer training program on our farm in Freeport, Maine. This is an intensive, experiential 18-month residential paid program that offers a high degree of support to help new organic dairy farmers start their own operation.

Ideal applicants will have dairy farm experience and are certain that they want to be a dairy farmer. The curriculum provides a solid background in the fundamentals needed to start and manage a dairy farm (business management, pasture and soil management, and animal health are the main areas we’ll focus on). Our team of experts provides specialized support through training, securing financing, locating land, and during the first few years of operation.

Learn more.

Lyme Disease Awareness — Inspect and Protect

Spring is here, so it’s time to think about the outdoors and proper protection against ticks.  Maine had more than over 1,395 cases of Lyme disease reported in 2014, a number that continues to increase yearly. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and we want to remind you the importance of daily tick checks and encourage the “inspect and protect” prevention strategy.

Ticks are primarily active in warmer months. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is caused by a bite from an infected deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).  In Maine, Lyme disease is most common in adults 65 and over and children between the ages of 5 and 15, but anyone can get the disease.  Individuals who work or play outside are more likely to be exposed to ticks. The most common and visible symptom of Lyme disease is a red bulls-eye rash that grows and appears within 3-30 days of exposure.  Other symptoms may include fevers, and joint or muscle pain.

Lyme disease is treatable and most individuals recover completely with a proper drugs. However, the easiest way to avoid the disease is prevention, using “No Ticks 4 ME”:

  1. Use caution in tick-infested areas.
  2. Wear protective clothing.
  3. Use an EPA approved repellent.
  4. Perform daily tick checks after any outdoor activity.

A tick must be attached for a minimum of 24 hours before the infection can be passed on, further stressing the need for prompt and proper tick removal. If you are bitten by a tick, or work in a known tick habitat, watch for symptoms for up to 30 days, and call a healthcare provider if symptoms develop.

Deer ticks can transmit not only Lyme disease, but also two other tick-borne infections that are endemic in Maine: anaplasmosis and babesiosis.  Cases of both these diseases are on the rise in Maine, as cases of anaplasmosis doubled for the second year in a row and cases of babesiosis increased from 2013. The majority of tick-borne illnesses occur during the summer months when ticks and humans are active outdoors.

Remember that the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the only tick that can transmit Lyme disease, but there are other species of ticks throughout the state. Tick identification references are available to order online at Maine CDC’s website. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick ID Lab offers free identification services and educational resources.

Additional information:

MOFGA, SOURCE and Lee Auto Malls Announce Russell Libby Agricultural Scholar Awards

Unity, ME, April 16, 2015 — The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), the Maine Sunday Telegram’s SOURCE, and Lee Auto Malls are pleased to announce the Russell Libby Agricultural Scholar Awards. The awards will honor the legacy of the late Russell Libby, who served as MOFGA’s executive director from 1995 to 2012, and celebrate Maine’s growing population of new farmers. Three $1,500 scholarships will be awarded each year to students and farmers pursuing careers in organic or sustainable farming.

“The scholarships will give people the chance to get the knowledge that Russell felt was so essential to being a good steward of the land,” said Mary Anne Libby, Russell’s wife.

MOFGA, which took shape in 1971, emphasizes the importance of connecting people who want to learn organic farming with experienced farmers willing to share their expertise. Recognizing more than twenty years ago that Maine’s farming population was aging and dwindling, Russell advocated for focusing significant MOFGA program resources on training the next generation of farmers. Through Russell’s vision, MOFGA has been instrumental in shifting the demographics of Maine’s farming population. Now Maine is one of the leading states for creating successful new farmers in the country.

“Russell promoted the peer to peer learning model, encouraging successful farmers to mentor the next generation by providing learning opportunities in farm fields, orchards, pastures, and – every once in a while – the classroom,” said Ted Quaday, MOFGA’s executive director. “It is a tremendous pleasure to work with the Maine Sunday Telegram and Lee Auto Malls to honor Russell’s vision.”

The awards will help individuals who want to attend educational workshops, conferences, and academic programs. The awards will go to:

  • a current participant in MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program;
  • a Maine High School Senior who intends to study sustainable agriculture at an accredited college in Maine;
  • and a Kennebec Valley Community College student enrolled in the sustainable agriculture program.

Details about the program and a link to an online application are available on MOFGA’s website. Applications are due on June 1st. Winners for the 2015 awards will be announced in July.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree initiated MOFGA’s Farm Apprenticeship Program back in 1975, when she was an aspiring farmer. Since then thousands of apprentices have come through the program. Many apprentices have continued on to MOFGA’s more in-depth Journeyperson Program, which provides hands-on support, training, and mentorship for people who are serious about pursuing careers in organic farming in Maine. In the last decade, the Journeyperson Program has generated more than 200 skilled, organic farmers, 90% of whom are successfully farming in Maine.

Most of the participants in MOFGA’s Journeyperson Program are first generation farmers who are starting from scratch and need the mentorship of elders in the organic and sustainable farming community. Most of them have not had the many benefits of being raised on a family farm, nor do they have prospects for inheriting farmland and infrastructure. Some of them have not had much experience even living in a rural setting – rather they have transitioned away from an urban, corporate lifestyle.

Maine is now a bastion of excellent training opportunities for organic and sustainable agriculture. MOFGA, Maine Farmland Trust, Cultivating Community, Kennebec Valley Community College, the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension, College of the Atlantic, Unity College and many more academic institutions and organizations are providing essential hands-on and classroom-based learning opportunities.

MOFGA’s goal is to raise $100,000 to support these annual awards. Donors can double the impact of their gift because a generous donor has pledged to match each dollar contributed.

“As a past MOFGA board member, an avid gardener and a friend of Russell’s, I am proud to be able to support these three scholarships,” said Adam Lee. “A part of Maine’s future success is dependent upon building on our past successes. In the past we have been very good at organic farming. I believe this is the time to dramatically raise the bar and invest our resources in more farms, more training and more farmers. Russell was a beacon for all of these issues that the rest of us followed. I am still following him.”

Details about the Russell Libby Agricultural Scholar Awards are available on MOFGA’s website. Contributions in support of the awards are tax-deductible.

Biosecurity for Birds Twitter Chat: April 16 @ 2pm EDT

Because it is expected that there will be many more highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza (HPAI) detections as the Spring migration continues and given to the highly contagious nature of these virus strains, USDA and several partners Have scheduled a Twitter chat to discuss biosecurity tips to protect flocks from HPAI H5.

The Twitter chat for Thursday, April 16 at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PT) and can be followed #chickenchat2015.

The conversation will be geared as an “ask the expert” format. There will be representatives from USDA-APHIS, USDA-NIFA, National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, and EDEN.

USDA to Issue Disaster Assistance to Help Honeybee, Livestock and Farm-Raised Fish Producers in Maine

Farm Bill Program Offers Producers Relief for 2014 Losses in more than 40 States

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency today announced that nearly 2,700 applicants will begin receiving disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses experienced from Oct. 1, 2013, through Sept. 30, 2014.

The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief to livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible losses may include excessive heat or winds, flooding, blizzards, hail, wildfires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions and diseases, or in the case of honeybees, losses due to colony collapse disorder. Beekeepers, most of whom suffered honeybee colony losses, represent more than half of ELAP recipients.

The farm bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year and the Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress, requires USDA to reduce payments by 7.3 percent, beginning Oct. 1, 2014. To accommodate the number of requests for ELAP assistance, which exceeded 2014 funding, payments will be reduced to ensure that all eligible applicants receive a prorated share.

Today’s announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit

To learn more about ELAP, visit For more information about USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster assistance programs, visit or contact your local FSA office at

Maine Poultry School: Pastured Poultry

Saturday, April 11th, 2015. 9am-3pm

Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, Maine

$35 per person, includes reference notebook and lunch ($20 per MPGA member). Register online.

Farm Tractor Safety Course

Consecutive Tuesdays, May 5th to June 2nd, 2015.

Course Fee $20 per student

Location for most classes: Maine Forest Service in Gray, register online.

USDA Implements 2014 Farm Bill Provision to Limit Payments to Non-Farmers

Department Proposes Changes to “Actively Engaged” Rule

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2015 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a proposed rule to limit farm payments to non-farmers, consistent with requirements Congress mandated in the 2014 Farm Bill. The proposed rule limits farm payments to individuals who may be designated as farm managers but are not actively engaged in farm management. In the Farm Bill, Congress gave USDA the authority to address this loophole for joint ventures and general partnerships, while exempting family farm operations from being impacted by the new rule USDA ultimately implements.

“We want to make sure that farm program payments are going to the farmers and farm families that they are intended to help. So we’ve taken the steps to do that, to the extent that the Farm Bill allows,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Farm Bill gave USDA the authority to limit farm program payments to individuals who are not actively engaged in the management of the farming operation on non-family farms. This helps close a loophole that has been taken advantage of by some larger joint ventures and general partnerships.”

The current definition of “actively engaged” for managers, established in 1987, is broad, allowing individuals with little to no contributions to critical farm management decisions to receive safety-net payments if they are classified as farm managers, and for some operations there were an unlimited number of managers that could receive payments.

The proposed rule seeks to close this loophole to the extent possible within the guidelines required by the 2014 Farm Bill. Under the proposed rule, non-family joint ventures and general partnerships must document that their managers are making significant contributions to the farming operation, defined as 500 hours of substantial management work per year, or 25 percent of the critical management time necessary for the success of the farming operation.  Many operations will be limited to only one manager who can receive a safety-net payment. Operators that can demonstrate they are large and complex could be allowed payments for up to three managers only if they can show all three are actively and substantially engaged in farm operations.  The changes specified in the rule would apply to payment eligibility for 2016 and subsequent crop years for Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Programs, loan deficiency payments and marketing loan gains realized via the Marketing Assistance Loan program.

As mandated by Congress, family farms will not be impacted. There will also be no change to existing rules for contributions to land, capital, equipment, or labor. Only non-family farm general partnerships or joint ventures comprised of more than one member will be impacted by this proposed rule.

Stakeholders interested in commenting on the proposed definition and changes are encouraged to provide written comments at by May 26, 2015. The proposed rule is available at

Today’s proposal was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit  To learn more about Farm Service Agency, visit

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Found in the Central United States

In response to recent detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in wild birds and poultry in the western United States and Canada, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) continues to work closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture APHIS Wildlife Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and state wildlife agencies to implement enhanced mortality investigations and surveillance in wild birds (for background, see NWHC bulletins on Detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses H5N2 and H5N8 in Wild Birds of the United States and Detection of Novel Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses in Wild Birds).

In early March 2015, HPAI H5N2 virus was confirmed at a commercial turkey facility in Minnesota, followed about one week later by detections of the same virus in turkey facilities in Missouri and Arkansas. HPAI H5N2 virus was subsequently confirmed in a mixed backyard poultry flock in Kansas. A multi-agency epidemiological investigation to characterize the spread of HPAI viruses across the United States is ongoing.

It is important to note that although North American wild ducks have not been reported to exhibit signs of disease when infected with HPAI, a Canada goose confirmed infected with HPAI exhibited neurologic signs. In addition, raptors also appear to be highly vulnerable to HPAI virus infection. For example, several captive falcons that were apparently fed meat from HPAI-infected game became ill and died rapidly. Various other raptor species have also died following infection with HPAI, including two red-tailed hawks, a bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and Cooper’s hawk. Testing of various tissues from these raptors has identified HPAI infection as causing or contributing to their deaths.

State and federal authorities with regulatory oversight of wildlife rehabilitators, wildlife exhibitors, and falconers may wish to consider contacting permit holders to caution them against feeding wild game, especially wild waterfowl, to their raptors and other captive wildlife. Authorities may also wish to encourage implementation of biosecurity practices to eliminate contact between captive and wild birds and to be alert for raptors and other avian species showing neurologic signs of disease, as this may indicate potential infection with HPAI. Birds showing neurological signs or acute changes in behavior should be immediately isolated from other birds. In addition, wildlife biologists and agency staff should exercise careful field hygiene (e.g., hand washing and disinfection of equipment and clothing) after visiting wetlands or when handling waterfowl or their tissues or parts.

For an up-to-date summary of results from combined federal and state agency HPAI virus surveillance in wild birds, view this multiple agency table: Wild bird HPAI cases in the U.S. For surveillance results for HPAI in poultry and captive wild birds, view USDA APHIS table: Update on Avian Influenza Findings.

The NWHC is continuing to monitor for HPAI viruses by testing sick and dead birds. In an effort to maximize early detection of HPAI and to understand the spatial extent and species involvement of HPAI in North America, wildlife managers should remain vigilant for wild bird morbidity and mortality events and continue to contact us to discuss submission and testing of carcasses from events that meet the criteria described below. Avian influenza testing may be performed in cases that fall outside these criteria if warranted based on field history or necropsy

findings. Note that the following is not an all-inclusive list of cases accepted by NWHC (see NWHC Submission Guidelines).

Submission criteria for HPAI diagnostics:

  1. Mortality events involving 5+ waterfowl (ducks, geese, or swans) or other water birds (loons, grebes, coots, shorebirds, or wading birds such as egrets, herons, or cranes).
  2. Mortality events involving raptors or other avian scavengers (ravens, crows, or gulls), particularly those observed near locations with on-going water bird mortality.
  3. Mortality events involving gallinaceous birds such as wild turkeys, quail, and sage grouse.
  4. Mortality events involving wild bird species in close proximity to facilities harboring domestic birds in which HPAI has been detected.
  5. Any mortality events involving wild bird species where estimated dead exceeds 500 birds.
  6. Wild raptors with neurologic/respiratory signs that die or are euthanized within 72 hours of admission to a rehabilitation facility. Please also provide treatment records.
  7. Raptors held in captivity (i.e., falconer birds, rehabilitation facility) with sudden, unexplained morbidity/mortality after exposure to wild waterfowl or a known/suspect case of HPAI H5.

General safety guidelines for handling wildlife:

Hunters and biologists should follow these routine precautions when handling game and their tissues or parts:

  • Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • Prepare game in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant, clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that come in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Additional guidance for hunters: Guidance for Hunters – Protect Yourself and Your Birds from Avian Influenza

Field biologists should follow these precautions when handling sick or dead birds associated with a mortality event:

  • Wear protective clothing including coveralls, rubber boots, and rubber or latex gloves that can be disinfected or discarded.
  • Minimize exposure to mucosal membranes by wearing protective eyewear and a particulate respirator (NIOSH N95 respirator/mask or better is recommended).
  • Wash hands often with soap and disinfect work surfaces and equipment between sites.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • Decontaminate work areas and properly dispose of potentially infectious material including carcasses.

Field Biologists working with wild birds in areas where H5 HPAIs have been detected should monitor their health for any signs of fever and respiratory symptoms for one week following exposure to live or dead wild birds. If symptoms develop please contact your health care provider.

Disease Investigation Services:

To request diagnostic services or report wildlife mortality, please contact the NWHC at 608.270.2480, and a field epidemiologist will be available to discuss the case. To report wildlife mortality events in Hawaii or Pacific Island territories, please contact the Honolulu Field Station at 808.792.9520 or email Thierry Work. Further information can be found online.

Wildlife Mortality Reporting and Diagnostic Submission Request Form (no longer available)

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the scientific and technical services the NWHC provides, please do not hesitate to contact NWHC Director Jonathan Sleeman at 608.270.2401.

To see past Wildlife Health Bulletins, click here. WILDLIFE HEALTH BULLETINS are distributed to natural resource/conservation agencies to provide and promote information exchange about significant wildlife health threats. If you would like to be added to or removed from the mailing list for these bulletins, please contact Gail Mode Rogall at 608.270.2438.