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September, 2016


President’s Perspective: Weathering the Perfect Storm

This season is proving to be challenging for many of the region’s farmers.

Late frosts damaged much of the peach crop and set back apple yields. And many dairy farms have been devastated by the combination of an unprecedented drought over much of the region and exceptionally low milk prices.

This year has been so catastrophic for some that it is unreasonable to shrug and say: “Hey, that’s farming!”

Farming is an inherently risky business. But, that risk has traditionally been mitigated through so-called “safety net” programs in the Farm Bill. Unfortunately, many of our farms are slipping through that safety net.

The 2014 Farm Bill altered the makeup of our safety net. Previously based on ad hoc disaster assistance and direct payments, the new system is largely reliant on crop insurance. The supplemental disaster programs in the current farm bill provide very little direct assistance to producers.

Adoption of crop insurance and other risk management tools remains relatively small in New England despite efforts made by USDA, the crop insurance industry, and NEFU (our 2014 Convention focused on crop insurance). Perhaps these low adoption rates should come as no surprise. Many insurance programs are complex and it can be difficult to decide which product to purchase and at which level of coverage.

During the National Farmers Union Legislative Fly-in, board member and Maine dairy farmer Mary Castonguay and our new Policy Associate, Aaron Shier, advocated for reasonable solutions to the shortcomings of Farm Bill safety net programs.

We advocated for both short-term action and longer-term solutions to the crisis in dairy. In the short-term, NEFU urged Congress to authorize emergency disaster payments to help farmers. Longer-term solutions include an overhaul of dairy risk protection policy, especially a revision or reformulation of the Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP).

The delegation also highlighted research indicating that extreme weather events (such as the current drought) are becoming increasingly common in the Northeast. In turn, NEFU urged Congress to direct the Natural Resources Conservation Service to direct adequate conservation funding to help farmers better manage extreme weather events. For updates and resources for farmers that are dealing with drought, please visit our new Drought Disaster webpage.

In addition to these specific policy proposals, we need the Secretary of Agriculture to have the authority provided in previous Farm Bills to “…provide assistance for economic losses in such manner as the Secretary deems appropriate” along with the means (that is, the money!) to do so.  

A major challenge we face is that these measures require the bold action of a Congress with little record of bipartisan performance. An additional difficulty is that we are seeking these changes during a lame duck session of Congress.

It is critical that members of our Congressional delegation in New England hear from farmers and consumers. Your voice is critical.

We need to fix the broken safety net now before another farm falls through.

I urge you to get involved. Share your stories with us. What is working and not working with Farm Bill programs? Join us at our Annual Meeting in Windsor, CT, December 2-3 to share your thoughts and concerns as we begin the conversation about the next Farm Bill.


Roger Noonan

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Short and Long Term Solutions for the Dairy and Drought Crisis in New England

Guest Article by: New England Farmers Union Member and Stonyfield’s Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture, Britt Lundgren

This year has been devastating for many dairy farmers in the Northeast.  Low prices for conventional milk and a severe drought have delivered a one-two punch that many dairies have been unable to withstand, with 16% of New Hampshire’s dairies going out of business so far this year.  Conventional milk prices have long been cyclical, with prices regularly dropping below the cost of production and then climbing back up in a fairly predictable three year cycle.  Many farms have learned how to weather these downturns, but this year is different. This time the drop in price has come at the same time that a severe drought is crippling forage and feed production.  This is forcing many farmers to rely more heavily than usual on purchased forages and feed, right when they are least able to afford it. Even the best prepared farms are digging deep into their capital reserves to make it through this year.

This situation demands both short term interventions to save farms that are struggling, and long term strategies to help better prepare more farms to weather such storms.   The first priority is for Congress to authorize emergency disaster payments to the farmers impacted by this drought.  USDA has the authority to issue emergency loan payments, but loans are not going to work for farms that are already struggling under a pile of debt. Congress needs to either issue funds for disaster assistance or remove the restrictions on USDA’s discretionary spending that are currently preventing Secretary Vilsack from providing disaster payments to farmers. . Click here to read more

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Baker-Polito Administration Launches Drought Emergency Loan Fund

BOSTON –Today the Baker-Polito Administration announced the launch of the Massachusetts Drought Emergency Loan Fund, which has the capacity to provide up to $1 million in micro-loans to family farms and other small businesses affected by widespread drought conditions in Massachusetts. The Drought Emergency Loan Fund is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s coordinated response to five consecutive months of abnormally dry weather across the Commonwealth.

“Small businesses are the bedrock of the Massachusetts economy, and our administration is deeply committed to maintaining the health and vibrancy of family-owned businesses,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Like the emergency loan fund we launched following record snowstorms, this Drought Emergency Loan Fund will provide affordable working capital to small businesses grappling with the aftermath of extreme weather.” Click here to read more

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$1.5 Million Grant Awarded to NEFU & Partners by FDA to Help Underserved Groups Implement FSMA, Improve Food Safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is currently being implemented and will have a significant impact on many food producers and processors. On August 23, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a $1.5 million grant to the National Farmers Union (NFU) Foundation to deliver outreach and training on FSMA to underserved growers and processors.

New England Farmers Union is a partner on this grant, along with National Young Farmers Coalition, Maryland, New York and Washington State Departments of Agriculture, Cornell University, the Deep South Food Alliance and others. Click here to read more

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Recent FSMA Updates from FDA

The first key compliance date for the Preventive Controls Rule, one of the main provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), is just around the corner. This rule, which will largely impact food processors and manufacturers, and may impact some farms engaged in value-added processing and related activities, will require compliance for many businesses on September 19, 2016. Though some businesses may not need to comply until later dates because of a staggered compliance schedule based on the size of the business as defined by the rule.

While this rule will still require compliance as previously planned in most cases, FDA recently released compliance date extensions and clarifications for specific issues in four of the seven major FSMA rules. Two of the four rules for which there are updates include the Preventive Controls Rule and the Produce Safety Rule, both of which will impact many farmers and processors in New England. Click here to read more

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NEFU Members Save on Auto Insurance

New England Farmers Union is proud to partner with A&B Insurance Group to offer our CT, MA and NH members an additional 5% discount on their auto insurance policies. Contact your local A&B Insurance agent to set up a free consultation.

In addition to their exceptional auto and farm insurance products, A&B Insurance Group is a full service, independent insurance agency offering Property and Casualty Insurance products for all your personal, professional, commercial, contractor, and equine needs. They also offer multiple lines of Life, Health, Disability and Long Term Care Insurance. With over 50 years combined experience in the insurance industry, they are dedicated to offering choices that meet the complex needs of their clients.

“At A & B Insurance Group, we understand that the insurance industry is not “one size fits all.”  Accordingly, we offer a variety of insurance carriers to better meet your individual and business needs.  We are our clients’ best advocates and customer service is our top priority.  We strive not only to meet your expectations, but to surpass them.”

Click to see an A&B Insurance Informational Video

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Electrical Safety on the Farm

When you make a mistake on the farm, most often you can learn from it and make corrections so it doesn’t happen again. But when you make a dangerous electrical mistake, you may never get a second chance. It is important to always respect energy and the danger it can pose on the farm. Click here to read more


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Farmers Union Climate Leaders

National Farmers Union (NFU) Climate Leaders is a community of farmers, ranchers, educators, policy makers, journalists and concerned citizens that share common concern over the current and looming threats posed to agriculture and food security by climate change. This community hopes to spread awareness about why farmers care about climate change, what they need to know about climate change, and what they can do about climate change. Family farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of climate change, which is why Farmers Union members adopted a special order of business at the 2016 NFU 114th Anniversary Convention calling on the organization to lead efforts to help educate family farmers, ranchers and rural communities about how to adapt to the effects of climate change on their respective operations.

Visit this page to browse resources from top organizations and institutions studying the effects and solutions to climate change, read into NFU’s take in the Climate Column and in our releases, and participate in this active and growing community by joining the NFU Climate Leaders Facebook group and signing up for the Climate Leaders mailing list to stay up-to-date on the latest climate news from NFU.

Have thoughts, concerns or questions? You can email NFU Director of Conservation Policy and Education Tom Driscoll at tdriscoll@nfudc.org.

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The Farmer’s Share

Did you know that farmers and ranchers receive only 17.4* cents of every food dollar that consumers spend on food at home and away from home? According to USDA, off farm costs including marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution and retailing account for more than 80 cents of every food dollar spent in the United States.









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Yesterday’s Farmers Union















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Washington Corner

Read a roundup of September news from the capitol.
From National Farmers Union.

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Welcome New Farmers Union Members

New Members
Kathryn Shaw
Sara Piper
Richard Uncles
Michael Davis
Hilary Dennis
Jackie Chabot

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Tools for Growth

Check out our resources page, full of programs and services to help producers in our region. Here are upcoming educational programs that might interest you.

Youth Scholarships at #NESAWG2016!
Exciting news! NESAWG is now offering FULL SCHOLARSHIPS (including travel funding) for youth under the age of 25 to attend NESAWG’s 2016 It Takes a Region Conference. They also have partial scholarships available for all conference attendees. Conference scholarship applications are due by Sept. 30, 2016. For more information and an application, visit their Conference Scholarship Page.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
This Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs covers federal programs for farmers, from renewable energy to rural development and food safety.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass
Tools to learn about how the USDA and federal partners support local and regional food economies. Explore the map to see what projects are happening near you.

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Upcoming Events

Please check the calendar on the New England Farmers Union website. We will post information about events that we will attend, and events that are of interest to our members. Please send along information if you have an event you would like us to post.

SAVE THE DATE! Join us in Windsor, CT at the Hartford/Windsor Airport Marriott Hotel for our seventh annual convention December 2-3, 2016.

Conservation Webinar – Soil Health in High Tunnel Production October, 11 • Webinar

Slow Money Pioneer Valley Entrepreneur Showcase October, 20 • Northampton, MA

NESAWG’s It Takes A Region Conference November 11-12 • Hartford, CT

National Farmers Union Presents: Growing for the Future December 5-8 • Interactive Webinar

SARE Animal Health Care Practices December 14 • Webinar

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