The new normal

CEW-MR-2-The-new-normal2by Steve Wagner

Ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was once asked a hypothetical question by a member of the media, and answered, “I don’t do hypotheticals!” But as hypotheticals go, some are necessary. Penn-Ag’s Executive Vice President Chris Herr rightly noted in discussing steps being taken to cope with High Pathogenic Avian Influenza, “what you’re seeing is the new normal.” Jennifer Reed-Harry, speaking at an earlier seminar on emergency preparedness, said because HPAI has not been identified yet in Pennsylvania, we are theoretically on emergency stand-by. [Read more…]

Losing our land grant

CDM-45-1-Losing-our3816by Steve Wagner

Like a bombshell that falls on a city’s buildings, the one that is falling on Penn State’s Extension Services is just as destructive in its way as the one destroying buildings. Jobs will be lost, services ruined and/or done away with, and cultures, namely agriculture and horticulture, will suffer irreparable damage.

“After vetoing two previous budget proposals last year,” explained PA Farm Bureau President Rick Ebert, “the Governor decided to line-item veto the Legislature’s third proposal, in order to disperse some public funds to keep public schools and human services functioning. As a result of the line-item veto, funding for PSU Cooperative Extension and Research, along with other agricultural priorities, have been zeroed out of the existing state spending plan that was supposed to run from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016. [Read more…]

Conservation, biodiversity and produce safety

CN-MR-2-Conservation-Biodiversityby Tamara Scully

The USDA recently announced that organic farmers are eligible to enroll land utilized as conservation buffers in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP). Buffers include windbreaks, pollinator strips, riparian buffers, filter strips and field borders planted with native vegetation. Grass strips, wetlands restoration, and living snow fences are also eligible practices. These types of conservation practices promote biodiversity, encourage farmers not to grow crops on marginal lands, provide waterways and soils with protection from contaminants, and create wildlife habitat. [Read more…]

Avoiding the unexpected (and potentially expensive) with H2A and other labor rules and regulations

CN-Hiring-H2A-pt3-0891by Bill and Mary Weaver

H2A workers are not an inexpensive source of labor. “The visa fee is $190 per worker, paid across the border, and you’ll need to budget about $250 per worker for transportation direct to your farm,” said Kerry Scott of MAS Labor, who specializes in the H2A program.

“Plan to reimburse your workers for their travel soon after they arrive,” added Scott, “They most likely will arrive stone broke, either because they are very poor, or because their money was taken from them.” [Read more…]

Hiring your farm workers through H2A ~ part 2

CM-MR-1-Hiring-H2a-pt2-2105by Bill and Mary Weaver

If you are having difficulty finding enough help for summer and fall farm work for this year, the H2A program is definitely an avenue to consider. Despite the paperwork, which an agent can assist you with, most farmers tend to be happy with the quality of the workers they receive through H2A. These workers are hoping to return next year so they are generally productive and looking to please their employer. [Read more…]