Conservation Compliance Final Rule Falls Short

Farmers remain powerless in the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Final Rule made public today by the USDA. The American Farm Bureau Federation advocated for clear rules and safeguards to ensure fair treatment of farmers in conservation compliance, but the final rule does not remedy unfair enforcement by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

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Food Box Program Gets $1 Billion Boost

An additional $1 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program was announced by the White House on Monday.

The program originally authorized $3 billion for the boxes and was expected to spend a total of $2.67 billion between mid-May and the end of August.

According to the USDA, 35.6 million food boxes were distributed between May 15 and June 30 in the program’s first round, and 35.1 million food boxes were distributed from July 1 to Aug. 24 in the second round, which ends Aug. 31. The third round of the program begins Sept. 1 and ends Oct. 31.

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U.S Cropland Maintains Record-high Value in 2020

Rising input costs and diminishing financial returns are challenging more farmers than ever before, but even as adverse conditions persist, American farmland has retained a record-high value.

On Aug. 6 the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual land values report, which showed U.S. cropland is valued at an average of $4,100 per acre in 2020. The figure matches record-high values assessed in 2019 and 2015.

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FFA Membership Increases Despite School Interruptions

Despite 2020 being a year of turmoil due to the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly for students—the National FFA Organization continues to experience increased membership.

FFA recently announced it reached a record 760,113 members for 2020, an increase of almost 60,000 from 2019. According to a press release from the organization, the top five student membership states are Texas, California, Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma.

“It’s great to see FFA’s membership increase again,” said Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and a former FFA member and state officer. “FFA is vital to the agricultural education programs across the country. Members are able to apply the classroom experience in practical situations and participate in competitions used to teach valuable skills.”

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Fertilizer Innovation Challenges Announced at Va. Farm

A future with better crop yields and enhanced environmental stewardship may be realized sooner than later, as the nation’s innovative agriculturalists step up to embrace the challenge.

Farmers, students and representatives from national and statewide agricultural organizations gathered—masked and socially distanced—at Creamfield Farms in Hanover County on Aug. 26 to learn about two programs intended to accelerate the use and development of fertilizer technologies.

The Environmental and Agronomic Challenge aims to identify existing Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers that meet or exceed environmental and agro-economic criteria. Competitors are tasked with creating EEFs that control fertilizer release to reduce nutrient losses to the environment. Winners will receive scientific evaluation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Local Animal Shelters Find Success in Adopting Out Barn Cats

Barn catHistorically, when Virginia animal shelters took in un-socialized outdoor cats, they did not have much long-term success. Today, shelters and private rescue groups take a different approach.  Member organizations of the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies have found that such cats can find great homes with farmers. One such member, the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA has such a robust community cat/barn-cat program that they have a designated employee who runs it. The position is called “Community Cat Manager.”

These cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated and ear-tipped (the top tip of the left ear is removed which is the universal symbol that the cat is spayed/neutered/vaccinated) and many of them are adopted out as working barn cats.  It’s a win-win-win – for cats, for shelter staff and for farmers who need rodent control.

Farmers who are interested in adopting a barn cat can contact Debra Griggs at

Laurie & Brian Landers – Nokesville and Tidewater Continue reading