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Would a National Checkoff fit Organic?

A. Fay Benson, Small Dairy Extension Educator
South Central New York Dairy & Field Crops

January 6, 2014

What is a National Checkoff Program?
by Elizabeth Burrichter, Organic Dairy Educator, Cortland County CCE

Do the sayings, 'Got Milk?', 'Beef: It's What's for Dinner,' or 'Pork. The Other White Meat' sound familiar? These promotions are all part of National Research and Promotion Programs, also known as commodity checkoff programs. These programs, overseen by the USDA, collect funds, called checkoff dollars or assessments, from producers, handlers or processors of a particular agricultural commodity. The goal of these programs is to maintain and expand existing markets, as well as to develop new markets. Some checkoff programs also fund agricultural production research.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has lobbied for such a program to promote the organic industry and distinguish it in the marketplace. The OTA believes that a major challenge for the organic sector is consumer confusion about what organic stands for, and this program would seek to help the consumer understand all that organic delivers through collective resources and coordination.

Unfortunately, the organic community is split on their support of this idea for an organic checkoff program.

Hurdles to such a program:

  • Currently, 100 percent organic operations are exempt from any checkoff assessments under the 2002 Amendment. 
  • Before an organic checkoff program could take place, organic products would have to become a single commodity. The Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 does not allow for more than one commodity to be part of a checkoff program, but OTA's proposal is to change that Act so that organics could become a single commodity. 
  • Several checkoff programs include a research component as an output, but because of the breadth of products included in this organic program, the research component would be the weakest link in the proposal. If all organic products are a single commodity, then research dollars would need to be spread evenly across every different production system. The diversity within organic production, i.e. field crops, orchards, vineyards, greenhouse production, etc., would prohibit the possibility of conducting thorough production research across all organic fields, which would be extremely expensive. Since production research would not be the main output of this program, funds would be focused on promoting organic products.
  • Creating a conflict of interest is prohibited within the program. This means that all promotion must be generic, and that promotion cannot disparage another agricultural commodity. Funds cannot influence governmental action or policy or "pass through" the program in order to fund another organization. Any promotion that results from an organic checkoff program cannot promote organic food as better than conventional, but can explain exactly what organic certification entails as a production claim.
Richard Mathews represented the OTA at the meeting and delivered his same presentation that was given at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in February 2013, titled National Research and Promotion Programs and the Role of USDA. He described the effort to launch an organic checkoff program. Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, consistently pointed out the potential problems associated with such a program: the current existence of other organizations that could do such work, the OTA's lack of involvement with those opposed to the program, and the OTA's survey that they put out for feedback from the public. While it is accessible online for anyone that wants to give feedback, it does not allow one to oppose the program all together. The OTA may assume that anyone filling out the survey is supportive of the program, because it only collects opinions on how the program should be carried out, not whether they should carry it out or not. At the Task Force Meeting one of the producers asked for a show of hands to see if any of the nine producers in attendance supported the checkoff initiative. There were no hands raised.

The current Farm Bill proposal addresses some of the hurdles to an organic checkoff program, with identical language in both the House and Senate versions. This text would allow for a ‚??technical fix‚?? in the regulatory language so that all split operations (farms that produce both organic and conventional products) would be exempt from conventional checkoff assessments, and not just operations that are 100% organic. Those opposed to the checkoff at the NY Organic Dairy Task Force meeting were in fact supportive of this measure.

While an organic checkoff program directed at consumer education sounds like a good idea, in actuality it would be very difficult and costly to attempt. Those involved in the organic dairy market know it was not created by a clever media campaign from Madison Avenue. It was created by dairy consumers demanding an alternative to milk from cows treated with Bst which began in 1994. How best to keep the trust of consumers is something every organic farmer should invest interest. To weigh in on the subject farmers can go to one of the websites listed below or they can go directly to their elected official in Washington.

http://www.ota.com/ORPP.html
http://www.nodpa.com/checkoff_opposition.shtml

The New York Organic Dairy Task Force has been funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute since 2005. The Task Force is comprised of both organic dairy and crop farmers, certifiers, processors, and related support services. They meet twice a year and review opportunities and barriers to the organic dairy industry in New York. For more information go to: http://cuaes.cornell.edu/organic/projects/dairy/dairy-initiative/



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calendar of events

Upcoming Events

Beginning Farmer/Hobby Farmer Workshop $5/pp, class size is limited, so pre-register by April 15th!

April 27, 2019
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Canandaigua, NY

This hands-on workshop is for beginning or part-time farmers who would like to improve their farm machinery skills, learn to properly and safely maintain their equipment to protect their investment. If you have been thinking about buying a tractor, new or used, two-wheel or four-wheel drive, compact or utility or more come join us. Topics include: selecting the right size/type tractor for the job; basic maintenance; staying safe around tractors and equipment; attaching implements properly; and information about ROPS and SMV's. There will be time for questions.

Pre-registration requested by April 15, 2019 email Amy with your name, address, and phone number or call 585-394-3977 x 429.
Fee: $5.00/person. Class size is limited.

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2019 Pastured Poultry Seminar, lunch included so please register by May 10th! $25/person

May 18, 2019
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.w/ coffee & donuts with the Program running from 9:00 a.m. - 5 p. m.
Attica, NY

The main speaker this year is Eli Reiff of Mifflinburg Pennsylvania. Eli raises broilers, turkeys, sheep, and beef, all on pasture. Topics to be covered will include the pasture, feed and nutrition, marketing, costs, and much more. As we grow as farm operators and get bigger, we may not pay as much attention to the basics as we should. So those areas are where we will start, and then expand to cover the group's interests.

Mike Badger, Director of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association will also be available for a round-table discussion. Plans are to have representatives from Farm Bureau, NYCAMH for farm health and safety, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wyoming County, as well as others.

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Calling all 9th-12th graders! 4th Annual Precision Agriculture Day at Genesee Community College

May 21, 2019
9:00 am - 1:30 pm Register by Friday May 10th! $15/per person includes lunch
Batavia, NY

Calling all 9th-12th graders!  We have an exciting new program for students interested in technology, science, engineering, and agriculture!
Would you like to:
  • Learn about how Drones collect information
  • Check out some potential career opportunities that have new and ever-changing technology
  • Learn how these technologies can be used in our own backyards in WNY
  • Discover potential and exciting career opportunities

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Announcements

Producers Previously Enrolled in the LGM Program Now Eligible for MPP

Dairy Producers Previously Enrolled in the Livestock Gross Margin Program Now Eligible for 2018 Margin Protection Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program (LGM-Dairy) now have the opportunity to participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy) for 2018 coverage. Sign-up will take place March 25 through May 10, 2019.
Eligible producers can enroll during the sign-up period at their local USDA service center. To locate your office, visit farmers.gov.


Smart Farming Team Technical Assistance Grant Application

The Labor Ready Farmer Project is offering grants to provide up to 12 hours of Technical Assistance (TA) consulting services to farms who want to make improvements to their farm's processes in hiring, training, managing or evaluating employees. Applicants will choose from one of the following four areas for TA assistance and identify a specific project. If selected they will be matched with a "Smart Farming Team" of consultants who will provide one on one technical assistance.
  • HIRING EMPLOYEES 101 - GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
  • ONBOARDING & TRAINING EMPLOYEES QUICKLY AND EFFECTIVELY
  • FINE-TUNING & IMPROVING THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
  • H2-A READINESS
Please complete this application and send to Nicole Waters, Beginning Farm Project Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. The form can be submitted by email, mail or in-person at the address listed below. Please feel free to call or email with any questions.

Nicole Waters - Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator
Plant Science Building, Room 15b
Tower Road, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853
Phone: 607-255-9911
Email: nw42@cornell.edu

Applications accepted on a rolling basis.



USDA Announces January Income over Feed Cost Margin Triggers First 2019 Dairy Sa

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2019 ? The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced this week that the January 2019 income over feed cost margin was $7.99 per hundredweight, triggering the first payment for eligible dairy producers who purchase the appropriate level of coverage under the new but yet-to-be established Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program.

DMC, which replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, is a voluntary risk management program for dairy producers that was authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. DMC offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced last week that sign up for 
DMC will open by mid-June of this year. At the time of sign up, producers who elect a DMC coverage level between $8.00 and $9.50 would be eligible for a payment for January 2019.

For example, a dairy operation with an established production history of 3 million pounds (30,000 cwt.) that elects the $9.50 coverage level for 50 percent of its production could potentially be eligible to receive $1,887.50 for January.

Sample calculation:
$9.50 - $7.99 margin = $1.51 difference
$1.51 times 50 percent of production times 2,500 cwt. (30,000 cwt./12) = $1,887.50

The calculated annual premium for coverage at $9.50 on 50 percent of a 3-million-pound production history for this example would be $2,250.

Sample calculation:
3,000,000 times 50 percent = 1,500,000/100 = 15,000 cwt. times 0.150 premium fee = $2,250

Operations making a one-time election to participate in DMC through 2023 are eligible to receive a 25 percent discount on their premium for the existing margin coverage rates.

"Congress created the Dairy Margin Coverage program to provide an important financial safety net for dairy producers, helping them weather shifting milk and feed prices," FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said. "This program builds on the previous Margin Protection Program for Dairy, carrying forward many of the program upgrades made last year based on feedback from producers. We're working diligently to implement the DMC program and other FSA programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill."

Additional details about DMC and other FSA farm bill program changes can be found at farmers.gov/farmbill.


New Guidance for Mortality Disposal Issued

NYS Department of Ag and Markets has posted guidelines on disposal of livestock carcasses, in response to reports that some rendering companies have halted pickups from farms.

https://nwnyteam.cce.cornell.edu/submission.php?id=761&crumb=dairy|1

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