VT Project Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Agricultural Threats

track-432104_1920Dogs are known for their incredible noses. They can detect illness, sniff out bedbugs and even help with conservation efforts like locating sea turtle nests.

And now man’s best friend could become agriculture’s best friend—detecting invasive pests and diseases that threaten crops.

“Dogs are really amazing at scent detection,” said Dr. Erica Feuerbacher, assistant professor and director of the Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare Lab at Virginia Tech. “It’s a matter of helping them hone their skills to detect what we want them to detect.”

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Farm Bureau GR Team to Participate in Farm Credit Knowledge Center Virtual Conference

Andrew and Stef

Andrew Smith and Stefanie Kitchen will be presenting “Going Up? Elevator Speeches and Other Tools for Agricultural Advocates” on Aug. 3 at 9 a.m.

The Farm Credit Knowledge Center is hosting a free virtual agricultural advocacy conference titled, “A Voice For Agriculture – Finding Your How, What, Where and Why.”

The conference will take place over the course of five live webinars beginning Aug. 3.

Each of the five sessions that make up the virtual conference will feature local, state and nationally recognized speakers that are experienced advocates for the agriculture industry. Featured speakers include Matthew Lohr, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Brandi Buzzard, Cattle Producer; Stefanie Kitchen, Assistant Director of Governmental Relations at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation; Andrew Smith, Associate Director of Governmental Relations at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation; Del. Israel O’Quinn, Virginia State Legislator; and Del. Mark Keam, Virginia State Legislator.

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Isle of Wight Teacher Among Eight Honored Nationally

Pam Hall VA HeadshotPamela Hall, a STEM teacher at Carrollton Elementary School in Isle of Wight County, was one of eight teachers nationwide selected as 2020 National Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award recipients.

The National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Farm Credit partner each year to honor teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for the innovative ways they use agricultural concepts to teach reading, writing, math, science, social studies, STEM, STEAM and more.

Hall previously was named Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom 2020 Teacher of the Year. Her mission is to integrate agriculture into the classroom all year long. She uses hands-on approaches, including studying plant and animal life cycles, taking farm nature walks, visiting with farmers, making ice cream, investigating and raising pollinators, and experimenting with hydroponics.

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Hanover County’s CJ Isbell Jr. Named 2020 Virginia Farmer Of The Year

CJ Isbell 2020 Farmer of the Year

Pictured left to right: Rachel Henley, VCE-Powhatan County; Laura Maxey-Nay, VCE-Hanover County; Jessica Isbell; Landon Isbell; Faith Isbell, and; CJ Isbell.

Charles Edwin (“CJ”) Isbell Jr. is carrying on a seventy-year family tradition at Keenbell Farm in western Hanover County. His grandparents, Joe and Kathleen Isbell, purchased the original 175 acres in 1951. Today, at 340 owned and leased acres, the farm specializes in grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, free range poultry, turkeys, eggs, and specialty non-GMO grains. Isbell recalled, “All that was on the property back in the early fifties was a two-story wooden house with daylight showing through the boards and an old corn crib.”

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Extreme Heat Creates New Wave of Problems for Farmers

withered-ground-1097016After surviving late spring frosts and a soaking start to summer, weather is again testing Virginia’s farmers as the threat of drought looms over most of the state.

As recently as July 5, the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported some topsoil and subsoil in Virginia showed a moisture surplus. But the NASS crop report for the week ending July 19 indicated the surplus had quickly evaporated.

According to the report, topsoil moisture is short or very short for 72% of the state, and 63% of subsoil moisture is the same. With dry conditions aligning with a prolonged period of extreme heat, some farmers and their crops are beginning to feel the strain.

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Public Asked To Report Receipt of Any Unsolicited Packages of Seeds

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has been notified that several Virginia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them.

Please do not plant these seeds. VDACS encourages anyone who has received unsolicited seeds in the mail that appears to have Chinese origin to contact the Office of Plant Industry Services (OPIS) at 804.786.3515 or through the ReportAPest@vdacs.virginia.gov email.

Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.

USDA Releases Report on Investigation into Beef and Cattle Price Spread

Beth cowsThe USDA released a report on its investigation into disparities between prices paid to farmers and beef prices at grocery stores.

“We appreciate the USDA’s thorough examination of the beef markets. There’s little doubt that something is wrong when consumers are paying higher prices for meat and at the same time America’s farmers and ranchers are being paid less,” said American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. “We are pleased the USDA responded to our call for an investigation, but it’s important to note the scrutiny of the markets is not concluded. USDA indicates their examination continues and investigations by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, as well as the Department of Justice, are ongoing. We are reviewing the policy recommendations the USDA put forth in the report and look forward to working with them and Congress to ensure markets remain fair for everyone involved.”

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