To Prepare for Bay Survey Visits
On July 23, 2016
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania agricultural producers, located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, were asked to complete a survey on the conservation practices they use on their farms. The purpose of the survey is to provide a verifiable, current snapshot of Pennsylvania’s efforts in nutrient management and conservation to officials at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Leaders in Pennsylvania’s production agriculture industry believe that there are many conservation practices installed, without government cost share, that need to be counted as part of our state’s efforts in nutrient conservation. Nearly 7,000 surveys were returned and now the researchers at Penn State that have designed the survey indicate that roughly 10% of the survey respondents will have on-farm visits to verify that their survey responses were accurate.
If you filled out a survey, you may receive a call in the next week or so, to schedule a visit from a Penn State Extension educator. When the extension worker visits your farm, they will be reviewing the information that you supplied in the survey to make sure that the information is accurate.
Because of the number of farms that need to be verified in some counties, you may be contacted by an Extension educator in another county who is coming to your county to assist. For example, Chris Houser, Extension Program Director for Field and Forage Crops, mentions that 140 of these survey verification farm visits need to be made in Lancaster County. So, Jeff Graybill, the Field Crop Extension educator in Lancaster, will receive some help from neighboring extension workers to get the visits completed. The target date for completion of all the visits will be early September.
Again, this process is designed to make the survey information reliable, so that the EPA can receive the information with confidence. If you receive a call to schedule a visit, I urge your cooperation, in the midst of a busy summer cropping schedule, to help us all provide an accurate, important picture of our industry’s nutrient conservation efforts. Remember, this survey process is not part of some regulatory audit; it is simple to add your good practices with your neighbors to get a true picture of conservation and nutrient management in the state.
TO SET THE TONE ON SAFETY
Several fatalities in the past month in South Central Pennsylvania, due to farming accidents, remind us of the potential dangers that we, our families and our employees face each day on our farm operations. All of us have a responsibility to set the tone on safety. By your actions and words, you set the tone on your farm operation for how important safe work practices are to you. In this time of deepening cash flow stress on many farms, and in the midst of compounding drought conditions on some farms, don’t let safety issues be crowded out by the constant strain of finances and worry over forage supplies.
Sending your children to a farm safety program is a great idea, but your family and employees need to see you follow through on safety issues on your own operation. If you do any of the following, you are setting a negative tone, that means a negative example, on safety issue on your farm:
- Make fun of using personal protective gear, like goggles when using a grinder, ear plugs on open station tractors or dust masks when cleaning out grain bins or sweeping out old chaff from a barn floor. Or, not have personal protective gear available and not setting an example by using it yourself.
- Ignoring employees concerns about brakes that grab, bald tires or burned out lights for equipment being taken over the road
- Asking another employee or older family member to train a younger member. When you do that, you have no idea if the important safety information was really taught to a new operator.
- Not repairing or replacing broken gates, busted concrete steps and floors, feed bin and grain bin ladders.
- Failure to secure equipment, by some other means than the hydraulic cylinder, when working underneath it.
- Allowing and encouraging children to operate equipment before they are physically big enough to handle the controls safely. If a child has to slide off the seat to push in the clutch, the child is too small to operate the equipment. Yet, I have personally seen this with very young children and riding lawn mowers, and pre-teen children on large farm tractors.
All of these examples set a negative tone on your farm regarding safety. I urge you to do all you can to avoid an “empty chair” at your dinner table.
TO PREPARE DROUGHT STRATEGIES
Rain patterns have been very variable this growing season. Fields that are just a few miles apart can look drastically different this year due to the uneven precipitation. As a general pattern, field crops south and east of the Susquehanna River are doing better than those west of the Susquehanna. Thousands of acres in parts of Franklin, Cumberland, Perry and Juniata and Blair Counties are under severe stress, and even if we start receiving adequate rain for the balance of the growing season, yields are going to be severely reduced. Farmers in some of these areas are saying that it has been nearly 2 decades since the drought conditions were this hard on field crops. Needless to say, this is an additional challenge to farms already receiving farm gate prices for milk and other commodities that have not been this low for 7 years.
Dairy producers and their nutritionists will have huge challenges this fall, because the forages will be very variable due to the level of stress on the crops during the growing season. If your farm is currently in an area of drought, review your current forage inventories, and meet with your nutritionists, veterinarians and crop consultants to plan for actions to take if the drought is unrelenting, or if we start to receive moisture and we have crops that are abnormal in their nutrient content (for example, corn silage with high starch content). Secure your seed supply now if you feel you will need some additional fall forage crops.
Quote of the Week: “No man should ever run for President that doesn’t understand hogs” Harry S. Truman, Thirty-third President of the United States of America
Dave Swartz is a district director and senior dairy educator for Penn State Extension. He works from the Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry County Extension offices.
District Director – Chester, Lancaster, and Lebanon Counties
Penn State Cooperative Extension