Farm Scoop – February 2016

New Crop Insurance Option for Organic Producers

Certified organic or organic-transitional producers who have a written contract from a buyer now have the ability to insure their crop at the contract price. This new initiative, the Contract Price Addendum (CPA) is an opportunity for producers to have an insurance policy that is more reflective of the actual value of their organic or organic-transitional crop. To choose contract pricing, you must elect it by the sales closing date of the crop you wish to insure and provide a copy of the contract by the acreage reporting date. The sales closing date for spring-seeded crops is March 15, 2016.

More Information

Please visit the UMaine Risk Management and Crop Insurance website or contact Crop Insurance Education Program Manager Erin Roche or 207.949.2490. A list of Maine crop insurance agents can be found online.

Ag Education Survey

The Maine Farm Bureau has partnered with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assess the educational needs of farmers, growers, and farm employees in Maine. A short survey has been developed to determine these needs across the state. Your input would be appreciated.

It will likely take 5 minutes or less to complete this survey. If you haven’t done so already, please complete the survey as soon as possible and by March 15, 2016.

Feel free to invite other individuals on your farm to complete the survey, including employees.

Robotic Dairy Systems: Where and How Can They Fit into Maine’s Dairy Industry?

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is pleased to host a meeting on March 9th in Waterville for dairy farmers and industry leaders to learn more about robotic technology available to dairy farmers.  Lunch is included, and per-registration is requested. Information and registration can be found online.

2016 Maine Vegetable & Fruit School

The 2016 Maine Vegetable & Fruit School, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15 at Seasons Event & Conference Center in Portland and on Wednesday, March 16 at the Bangor Motor Inn Conference Center. Topics include:

  • Balancing Nitrogen and Potassium Fertilization for High Tunnel Tomatoes
  • FSMA Produce Safety Rule: Details and Its Possible Impacts on You!
  • Garlic: Growing Tips and Disease Issues
  • Optimizing Compost Use in the Field
  • Using Cover Crops and Strip Tillage for Soil Health
  • Spotted Wing Drosophila Update – Scouting Results and Management Options
  • Opportunities for Stone Fruit
  • Risk Management: Updates for Diversified Growers
  • Worker Protection Education for Farmers
  • Best Practices for Growing Melons in Maine
  • Grapes: New Varieties and Potential for Maine

More information is posted on our website.

Please register by March 4.  The cost is $45.00 and includes lunch.  Participants may receive 2 Pesticide Applicator recertification credits, and Certified Crop Advisors may earn 5 recertification credits.  We hope to see you there!

2016 Maine Crop Insurance Policies Deadline

The next sales closing deadline for risk management policies in Maine is March 15, 2016 for the following insurance products:

  • Corn
  • Forage Seeding
  • Fresh Market Sweet Corn
  • Green Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Small Grains
  • Whole-Farm Revenue Protection

Developing a risk management plan is a critical step for any serious farmer. In the event of a natural disaster, your best protection might be enrollment in the Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP), Whole-Farm Revenue Protection or Multi-peril Crop Insurance (specific crop).

Please contact your local crop insurance agent.  Visit the USDA’s Agent Locator website to find an agent in your area. For more information, visit the Maine Risk Management and Crop Insurance Education Program website.

2015 New England Farms and Land in Farms

The number of New England Farms increased slightly while land in farms remained unchanged from 2014 according to Gary Keough, State Statistician of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, New England Field Office

Farm numbers and land in farms are differentiated by six economic sales classes. Farms and ranches are classified into these six sales classes by summing the sales of agricultural products and government program payments. Sales class breaks occur at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, $500,000, and $1,000,000. Producers were asked during the 2015 mid-year surveys to report the value of sales based on production during the 2014 calendar year.

The complete Farms and Land in Farms report is available online.

Statewide Natural Resource Assessment Survey Invites Participation from Landowners

Maine Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), in cooperation with USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are conducting a Natural Resources Assessment across the state and need the help of Maine’s citizens! The goal is to determine natural resource priorities so that Districts and NRCS can assist landowners, professionals, and municipalities with best management practices that protect and improve land and water resources. To gather this information, Districts are distributing a statewide survey to document natural resource conservation concerns and to build on the data collected in the first assessment, completed in 2011. The priorities articulated in the survey will inform state and local natural resource programs and funding opportunities in the coming five year cycle.  Districts encourage farmers, woodland owners, resource professionals, and members of the general public to take advantage of this opportunity to make your voice heard.

The survey may be accessed online.

Cooperative Design Lab — Gray, Maine, April 9

Cooperative Development where Ecology and Economics Meet

Cooperative Design Lab is the only program of its kind in the Northeast region of the United States and it is happening in Maine. CDL offers training and leadership development to strengthen the network of cooperatives in the region and support the formation of business co-ops, mutual aid projects and coalition efforts.

Complete information and registration info is available online.

The Internal Revenue Service issued the following 10 Key Tax Tips for Farmers and Ranchers

  1. Crop insurance. Insurance payments from crop damage count as income. Generally, you should report these payments in the year you get them.
  2. Sale of items purchased for resale. If you sold livestock or items that you bought for resale, you must report the sale. Your profit or loss is the difference between your selling price and your basis in the item. Basis is usually the cost of the item. Your cost may also include other expenses such as sales tax and freight.
  3. Weather-related sales. Bad weather such as a drought or flood may force you to sell more livestock than you normally would in a year. If so, you may defer tax on the gain from the sale of the extra animals.
  4. Farm expenses. Farmers can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses they paid for their business. An ordinary expense is a common and accepted cost for that type of business. A necessary expense means a cost that is proper for that business.
  5. Employee wages. You can deduct wages you paid to your farm’s full- and part-time workers. You must withhold Social Security, Medicare and income taxes from their wages.
  6. Loan repayment. You can only deduct the interest you paid on a loan if the loan is used for your farming business. You can’t deduct interest you paid on a personal loan.
  7. Net operating losses. If your expenses are more than income for the year, you may have a net operating loss. You can carry that loss over to other years and deduct it. You may get a refund of part or all of the income tax you paid in prior years. You may also be able to lower your tax in future years.
  8. Farm income averaging. You may be able to average some or all of the current year’s farm income by spreading it out over the past three years. This may cut your taxes if your farm income is high in the current year and low in the prior three years.
  9. Tax credit or refund. You may be able to claim a tax credit or refund of excise taxes you paid on fuel used on your farm for farming purposes.
  10. Farmers Tax Guide. For more details on this topic see Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide. You can get it online anytime.

NOP Videos on Organic Certification

As part of the USDA National Organic Program’s Sound and Sensible Initiative, the International Organic Inspectors Association (IoIA) created two videos on what producers can expect during an organic farm inspection. The focus of the video is to take some of the mystery out of the process for producers considering beginning or transitioning to an organic operation. The videos were produced in conjunction with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).

The links to the videos are posted below. Please consider passing on this message to anyone who might be interested in the videos. They also are available at NCAT’s ATTRA website.

UMaine Extension Offers Fruit Tree Series

During the spring and summer of 2016, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County will be offering Designer Fruit Tree Series: Grafting, Budding, Planting & Pruning, a variety of classes focusing on growing and maintaining fruit trees.

Join arborist Tom Hoerth and learn the proper methods for grafting, budding, planting, and early care, and pruning of fruit trees. Each session will cover a separate topic. Saturday, March 12th, participants will learn techniques of whip, tongue and cleft grafting of fruit trees; Thursday, April 21, proper pruning procedures will be demonstrated and students will practice what they’ve learned on the trees in the orchard at Tidewater Farm; Saturday, May 21 will cover proper planting and early care of fruit trees; and on Tuesday, July 19 students will learn the techniques of Chip budding and “T” budding of fruit trees.

All sessions will be taught at the UMaine Regional Learning Center and Tidewater Farm in Falmouth.

Register for each session online.

Alpaca and Llama School

On March 12, 2016 (snow date March 13) from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., a one-day Alpaca & Llama School will be held at the Androscoggin-Sagadahoc Counties Extension Office in Lisbon Falls. The classroom portion will take place at the Androscoggin and Sagadahoc Counties Extension office located at 24 Main Street in Lisbon Falls, and the afternoon will be spent at nearby Graceland Alpaca Farm. Participants will hear from Extension presenters on topics including bookkeeping, enterprise budgeting, insurance, pasture management, and nutrition. Laila Roukounakis of Graceland Alpaca Farm will offer a tour and discuss herd health strategies. Large animal veterinarian Dr. Meghan Flanagan will also be on hand to speak about how to prevent and treat for parasites. $35.00 with lunch provided by the Maine Alpaca Association. Information and registration is online.

A New Option for Online Sales

Are you interested in selling your farm products online, but don’t have the time to set up and manage your own website? Perhaps Barn2Door is right for you. For a nominal monthly subscription, you can…

  1. Get a custom-tailored webstore, to feature all your offers, including private (wholesale) or public sales (consumers).
  2. Get paid. Customers buy food via your webstore then the money is deposited directly into your bank account.
  3. Email one or all of your customers simultaneously (with just one-click).
  4. Share your store or individual offers on Facebook (with just one-click).
  5. Track all customer conversations, requests, sales history, fulfillment in one simple interface.
  6. Flexible fulfillment to meet your current routines and preferences: you choose days, drops, times, locations – and easily manage local pickup, delivery or direct shipping.
  7. Benefit from ecommerce best practices to increase your online exposure (with search engine optimization included).
  8. Enjoy “foot traffic” from buyers coming to Barn2Door to discover and buy from all farms.

For more info see

Universities to Award Contract Dining Operations to Sodexo which pledges to Surpass 20% Local Food Commitment and Invest $14 MM in Campus Facilities

Sodexo commits to source 25% to 30% of food locally by 2020 and pledges effort to retain high performing, non-management dining staff currently working in campus dining facilities

The University of Maine System announced today that Sodexo achieved the highest evaluation score as part of its review of proposals to provide dining hall, retail, and food catering services at six of the system’s seven universities starting on July 1, 2016.

Read the full story here.

Sustainable Insect Pest Management Webinar — February 5 at 2:00 p.m. EST

An eXtension webinar about sustainable insect pest management practices, based on the three-tiered IPM approach suitable for small farmers, is on February 5 starting at 2:00 p.m. EST/1:00 p.m. Central. Focus will be on the basic principles of trap cropping, pest exclusion practices, and biorational insecticides for organic pest management. Please share this information with state contacts or others that may need help. Registration details for this free event are online.

Survey to Assess Educational Needs of Farmers, Growers and Farm Employees Due February 29

The Maine Farm Bureau has partnered with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assess the educational needs of farmers, growers, and farm employees in Maine. A short survey has been developed to determine these needs across the state. Your input is appreciated.

It will likely take 5 minutes or less to complete this survey. Please complete the survey as soon as possible and by February 29, 2016.

Feel free to invite other individuals on your farm to complete the survey, including employees.

MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference: Soils

March 5, 2015 (Snow date March 6), 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center, Unity

Our yearly Spring Growth Conference is a daylong event that digs deeply into topics that impact farmers, whether a specific crop, technique or management practice. The 2016 conference will focus on the basis of farming: soils.

Registration (includes lunch): $75 individual, $100 couples, $50 students and apprentices. FMI and to register, please visit the MOFGA website.

2016 Fine Producer Survey

Exciting news! As part of FINE’s New England Farm to Institution Metrics Project, we are starting off 2016 by conducting original research about the regional farm to institution market. We would like to ask for your help in getting producers to fill out our survey. We want all producers to fill it out, even if they don’t currently sell to institutions.

We know farmers’ time is valuable. As an incentive to participate, we are giving away five $100 Visa gift cards. Farmers just have to provide their contact information at the end of the survey to have a chance to win. The survey should take 5 to 20 minutes to complete, depending on whether the producer filling it out sells to any institutions (and other factors). You can access it here.

Results from this survey will help us better understand the challenges and opportunities presented by the farm to institution market – we will know more about how and when institutional markets are valuable for farm businesses and what challenges and opportunities agricultural producers are likely to face in expanding or entering it. State agencies, farm associations, farmers, and nonprofit organizations will all have access to research findings to use for business and strategic planning.

Please note that all responses will be kept confidential. Information will be published in summary format only and will not be traceable to any individual farm.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this survey! If you have any questions, please email.