Soil Health Enables Climate Beneficial Wool

Rancher Benefits in Multiple Ways from Soil Health

What if, before you purchased a hat or sweater, you knew the wool used to make it came from sheep raised on a ranch managed to improve soil health and increase soil carbon? For nearly a decade, ranch owner Lani Estill has worked with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve soil health.

By adding carbon-conscious conservation practices to her ranch, the operation now stores more carbon in the soil than it emits through its operations. As a result, her operation, Bare Ranch, is marketing “climate beneficial” wool to a national clothing manufacturer. Estill and her family raise sheep and cattle on her 40,000-acre ranch, which sits on the border of northern California and northwest Nevada.

With help from her local NRCS offices and supported by Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts, Estill has also improved wildlife habitat on her ranch. She improved sage grouse habitat by removing thousands of acres of invasive juniper and installed hedgerows for pollinators. She and her co-owners also installed fencing and livestock watering facilities and are following a prescribed grazing management plan.

Read the full story at

Source: ASI Weekly March 9, 2018

Scrapies Update

APHIS No Longer Providing Free Plastic Scrapie Tags

To support animal disease traceability and scrapie eradication efforts, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has provided both metal and plastic ear tags and applicators to sheep and goat producers – at no cost – since fiscal year 2002.

After a funding reduction in FY 2012, APHIS used specific, no-year funding (for scrapie and ADT) to continue purchasing the tags and distributing them free of cost to producers. These no-year funds were exhausted in fiscal year 2017. While the Agency remains committed to ADT efforts, beginning Oct. 1 of this year, APHIS is providing only metal tags free of charge to producers and others who handle sheep and goats. Plastic tags and applicators for metal and plastic tags will remain available for purchase directly from approved tag manufactures.

These changes will reduce APHIS tag and applicator costs while still providing sheep and goat producers with a free identification device. APHIS will provide a limited number of plastic tags to producers newly enrolled in the Scrapie Free Flock Certification Program who submit tissues for scrapie surveillance in order to encourage on-farm scrapie surveillance.

The agency will continue to work closely in partnership with states and industry to achieve scrapie eradication.

For more information on how to purchase tags and applicators, visit
Note: The American Sheep Industry Association and other stakeholder groups continue to work with USDA on alternatives to this new policy, including increasing the appropriations designated to the scrapie eradication program.

PA Extension to host farm marketing program Dec. 8

Penn State Extension along with Buy Fresh, Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley to host session

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Farmers who have been selling direct to consumers via farmers markets and/or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) have noticed a shift in those market channels. For the last few years, farmers markets and CSAs have been stagnant and in some cases shrinking. Are there other market channel opportunities for farmers? Are there techniques we can use to improve customer retention? What are the current trends in local food we can capitalize on?

Penn State Extension along with Buy Fresh, Buy Local Greater Lehigh Valley will host an “Intensive Marketing” program at the Nurture Nature Center, 518 Northampton Street, Easton, Pa., on Dec. 8.

Nick Burton, State of The Soil, Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central and Marilyn Anthony from Temple University Fox School of Business will help to improve and sharpen our marketing skills for this day-long workshop.

Registration and detailed information to follow soon. For more information contact Brian Moyer at 610-391-9840 or email at

— Penn State Extension


Northeast SARE Invites Farmer Grant Applications

Proposals are due online by Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. EST

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The call for applications for 2018 Farmer Grants has been released by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program.

Proposals are due online by Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Funded projects will be announced in March 2018 and projects may begin in the spring.

Northeast SARE Farmer Grants are intended for farm business owners and managers who would like to explore new sustainable production and marketing practices—often through an experiment, trial or on-farm demonstration. Reviewers look for innovation, potential for improved sustainability, and results that will be useful to other farmers.

Awards are capped at $15,000 and projects may address the wide range of issues that affect farming in the Northeast. To search topics that SARE has previously funded, please access the national database of projects at:

Applicants must work with a technical advisor—typically a Cooperative Extension educator, NRCS staff, university research or extension specialist, private crop consultant, veterinarian, or other service provider—who serve the farmer applicant in a consulting capacity.

Application materials, including detailed instructions and supporting documents, are posted on the Northeast SARE website at Questions about the grants program should be directed to

The Northeast SARE region is made up of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Northeast SARE programs are offered to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status.

—Northeast SARE


NJDA Announces Farm to School Mini Grants

$10,000 in grant money available to enhance Jersey Fresh Farm To School programs

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher has announced $10,000 in competitive mini grants is available to schools or school districts for the purpose of developing Farm to School activities in New Jersey schools. The grant money can be used for the purchase of materials to support school gardens that grow fruits or vegetables, the cost to transport and pay for class trips to New Jersey farms, or the purchase of cafeteria salad bars that will increase the offering of fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals.

“The Farm to School program is a wonderful way for students of all ages to become engaged in activities that help them learn and appreciate more about fruits and vegetables and where they come from,” Secretary Fisher said. “Farm to School programs enhance what already takes place in the classroom and educate students about food and farming.”

Funds have been made available through legislation signed into law in 2014, which allows contributions to the New Jersey Farm to School Program through the Farm to School and School Garden Fund tax check-off. Additional legislation signed in 2014 created the Farm to School Donor Fund, making it possible for private donations to supplement Farm to School activities in the state. Mini grant applications will be open until Dec. 15.

More than 100 types of fruits and vegetables are grown in the Garden State. Opportunities exist for New Jersey farmers to provide agricultural products to school food service departments throughout and beyond the growing season. The object of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias is to improve student nutrition and help students make lifelong, healthy choices.

Farm to School Programs also include school garden activities that teach students where food comes from by growing it themselves. Students benefit by learning the science behind farming and the nutritional value of fresh produce to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the environment and supporting local farmers. Educators can use school garden programs to teach any subject — math, science, language arts, health and nutrition, art or social studies. In New Jersey, Farm to School Programs promote and create a sense of community for all involved.

A school or school district may apply for a mini grant on behalf of a school(s) that:

  • Currently participates and administers, in good standing, the USDA National School Lunch Program
  • Provides an explanation of how these funds will be utilized to increase Farm to School activities throughout the intended grant period
  • Submits a Letter of Support from the school Principal Administrator stating support for these efforts

For more information on mini grants click here and for information about the New Jersey Farm to School Program, visit



Impact of Tax Code on Agriculture

WASHINGTON — The House Agriculture Committee has held a hearing to examine how the tax code impacts agricultural producers. Members of the committee heard from a panel of Members of Congress—including Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-at large) and Rep. Lynn Jenkins (KS-2)—from the House Committee on Ways and Means, the committee charged with crafting our nation’s tax code. The Committee also heard from a diverse panel of witnesses including agricultural and tax professionals.

“Both the ranking member and I are CPAs, and many of our colleagues in Congress are small business owners in their own right,” said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway. “Few business sectors in America are subject to as many unknowns as farming and ranching. With the upcoming potential for tax reform, it is important to highlight the unique challenges of the agricultural industry and explore opportunities within the tax code to better support a vibrant farm sector.

“As with tax reform changes from years past, the devil is in the details. Providing for a simpler, fairer tax code means that many parts of the tax code may have to change, but these individual proposals cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. I look forward to working with Chairman Brady and his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee as they craft a tax reform package, and I urge all of my colleagues to reserve judgment until they’ve had an opportunity to evaluate a complete package.”

Written testimony provided by the witnesses from today’s hearing is linked below. Click here for more information, including Chairman Conaway’s opening statement  and the archived webcast.

Witness List:
Panel I
Ms. Patricia Wolff, Senior Director, Congressional Affairs, American Farm Bureau Federation, Washington, DC

Mr. Doug Claussen, CPA, Principal, KCoe Isom, LLP, Cambridge, NE

Mr. Chris Hesse, CPA, Principal, CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, Minneapolis, MN

Mr. Guido van der Hoeven, Extension Specialist/Senior Lecturer, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Raleigh, NC

Dr. James M. Williamson, Economist, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC





Horse tests positive for deadly EHM (EHV-1) equine herpes

TRENTON, N.J. — The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has quarantined properties in Hunterdon and Somerset counties after a horse developed highly infectious equine herpes myeloencephalopathy. EHM is the often deadly neurologic form of the Equine Herpes Virus infection. No recent movement had occurred at the farm where the virus was reported prior to this case. The horse was moved into the isolation barn at a local animal hospital the evening EHM was confirmed. Both the horses at the original farm and the hospital are under quarantine.

Nine horses were being treated at the hospital at the time of the incident; several horses were exposed to the ill horse. Seven of these horses will be moved to a remote facility, which also will be placed under quarantine so the hospital can be cleaned and disinfected in order to reopen. Other than the initial case, none of the quarantined horses at either location are showing clinical signs at this time. Both locations are taking the necessary biosecurity precautions to limit the spread of the virus. Temperatures also are being taken twice daily on all quarantined horses.

“The Department took swift action to prevent the disease from spreading to other horses by enacting a quarantine, which stops movement of horses in and out of the properties and puts in place preventive measures to contain the virus,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher.

The EHV-1 organism spreads quickly from horse to horse and can cause respiratory problems, especially in young horses, spontaneous abortions in pregnant mares, and the neurologic form of the virus can result in death. The incubation period of EHV-1 is typically 2-10 days. Clinical signs include respiratory disease, fever, nasal discharge, depression, cough, lack of appetite and/or enlarged lymph nodes. In horses infected with the neurologic strain of EHV-1, clinical signs typically include mild incoordination, hind end weakness/paralysis, loss of bladder and tail function and loss of sensation to the skin in the hind end. The virus spreads readily through direct contact with infected materials. While highly infectious, the virus does not persist in the environment for an extended period of time and is neutralized by hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sunlight. The virus does not affect humans and other domestic animals, with the exception of llamas and alpacas.

Concerned owners should consult with their veterinarian prior to taking any action as the clinical signs of infection with the neurological form of EHV-1 are common to many other diseases. EHM is a reportable disease in New Jersey. If an owner has a horse exhibiting neurologic signs or suspects Equine Herpes, they are directed to call their veterinarian immediately.

The NJDA Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory provides testing for the neurologic form of EHV-1. For more information, visit or call 609-406-6999.



Newly-preserved farm protects Readington’s historic character

READINGTON TWP. – A partnership of the New Jersey State Agriculture Development Committee, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Readington Township and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service on Tuesday, Feb. 21, preserved the 21-acre Cole Farm on Readington Road.

Back in the late 1700s, a German indentured servant named Casper Berger repaid his debt and became a free man.

“He was a mason by trade, and he was required to build three homes,” said Robert Cole, Berger’s descendent. “He built them, earned his freedom and settled in the village of Readington.”

According to a family history, the house on the Cole farm property was likely built by John Berger, a grandson of Casper Berger. The barns are believed to predate the farmhouse.

During the Civil War era, the farm was owned by John Berger’s daughter, Anna, and her husband, Thomas Johnson, the village doctor. Their daughter, Sarah Johnson, married Charlie Cole, a local farmer.

Charlie and Sarah Cole’s son Robert, and his wife Gladys, purchased the farm during the Great Depression. Robert was one of the first farmers in the area to own a combine, which he made available to neighboring farmers. Access to this technology supported and fostered the agricultural community. Robert Cole farmed the land through the 1950s, selling some of the original acreage in his retirement.

The property was passed down to Robert’s son, Richard Cole, who had two sons, Robert and David. The younger Robert Cole and his wife purchased the farm in 1994, and still live there today. Robert and Janet Cole’s children, Bobby and Sarah, represent the ninth generation of their family to live on the land.

Eight generations later, Casper Berger’s farm is still in the family. And it is likely to remain a family farm, now that the Hunterdon County land has been permanently preserved.

Preserving the farm will make it easier for future generations – including Robert and Janet Cole’s son and daughter – to continue to own and farm it.

Cole said he and his wife felt strongly about preserving the farm.

“When we walk on the land, we can feel the history,” he said. “It’s a special place, and we feel that we’re being stewards of our family heritage. It felt like the right thing to do.”

The preservation of the farm also helps protect the character of Readington Village, which is listed on the state and national Registers of Historic Places. The Cole farm is the last remaining property of sizeable acreage in the village.

The centerpiece of Readington Village is the historic Dutch Reformed Church, which is surrounded by 18th and 19th century houses. Casper Berger and several succeeding generations are buried in the church’s cemetery.

The Cole farmland – which overlooks the church and cemetery – will continue to be owned by the family, but is now permanently restricted for agricultural use. The family’s historic house and barns were not included in the preservation project.

“The Cole family farm is very important to the landscape and character of Readington Village,” said Michele S. Byers, executive director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We’re very pleased the family chose to preserve this beautiful piece of land.”

Development rights on the Cole farm were purchased using New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Readington Township’s funding from the State Agriculture Development Committee.

“We were happy to partner in the preservation of this farm to ensure that it remains in agriculture for generations to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Douglas H. Fisher who chairs the State Agriculture Development Committee.

Readington Township Mayor Benjamin Smith said that the township is happy to have assisted in this preservation.

“Preservation of the Cole farm in the heart of Readington Village is an important part of the township’s multi-decade program to preserve our farms and maintain the rural character of the township for future generations,” Smith said.

State Conservationist Carrie Lindig praised the farmland preservation project.

“The Natural Resources Conservation Service values the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s leadership in preserving New Jersey’s farmland,” Lindig said. “We are pleased to partner with them and the State Agriculture Development Committee in acquiring a conservation easement on this Readington Township farm, and we appreciate Mr. Cole’s commitment to preserving their valuable, historic family farm.”

Source: NJ March 22, 2017

Federal funding available to restore habitat

SOMERSET, N.J. — USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is now accepting applications from farmers and landowners in seven New Jersey counties who are interested in installing conservation practices to help restore pine savanna, a critical wildlife habitat of the Northern Bobwhite. With a decline of suitable habitat, the bobwhite quail population in eastern North America has declined by more than 85 percent since the 1960s.

Northern Bobwhite, commonly referred to as bobwhite quail, is a state-identified target species of the Working Lands for Wildlife partnership, an NRCS initiative that brings partner groups together to develop a collaborative approach to conserve habitat on working lands.

Through this WLFW effort, NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to implement a variety of conservation practices to restore northern bobwhite quail habitat. Restoration projects will include developing and implementing forestry plans that include activities such as tree thinning and prescribed burning to improve forest health.

Landowners in Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland and Atlantic counties are eligible to apply. Eligibility requirements for NRCS programs set forth in the 2014 Farm Bill will apply.

NRCS accepts applications on a continuous basis but makes funding selections at specific times. For funding consideration in 2017, please submit an application before April 21. To apply or learn more, please contact your local USDA service center. In Ocean County, Burlington County and Camden County, call NRCS at the Columbus Service Center 609-267-1639, ext. 3; in Salem County and Gloucester County, call NRCS at the Woodstown Service Center 856-769-1126; and in Atlantic and Cumberland Counties, call NRCS at the Vineland Service Center 856-205-1225, ext. 3.


Source: Morning Ag Clips NJ March 23, 2017