2022 Beginning Farmer Classes start with new focus
The Center for Arkansas Farms and Food (CAFF) will present a new round of Beginning Farmer Classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January 11 to March 1.
The 2022 Beginning Farmer Classes have been redesigned to highlight the practices of successful farmers and offer learning activities with information from local service providers and regional farmers.
“Even if you’ve taken the course before, you can expect new knowledge and insights,” said Heather Friedrich, program manager for the Center for Arkansas Farms and Food.
CAFF was created to help increase the number of farms and farmers in Arkansas. The goals of the center are centered on supporting a regional food system by connecting to established farms and training the next generation of farmers. CAFF is a center of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
Each course costs $10 and will be presented via Zoom. Class times are 6-8:30 p.m. except the first session, “Farming as a Profession,” which will be 7-8:30 p.m. on Jan. 11.
The latest edition of the Arkansas Grown magazine is here! With more than 25 features about Arkansas agriculture, there’s something for everyone. You can view the magazine online here, or find a physical copy at various locations around the state very soon!
Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Survey
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture is seeking input for funding priorities in developing the Request for Applications for the 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program HR 133 (Stimulus Funding). Congress approved the additional HR 133 Stimulus Funding due to COVID-19 impacts to the food system.
Funds from this grant must focus on solely enhancing the competitiveness of specialty crops for Arkansas farmers. Specialty crops include vegetables, tree nuts, flowers, medicinal and culinary herbs, Christmas trees, horticulture, and pollinator health.
Grant programs can include establishing specialty crop producer/grower associations, marketing specialty crops, specialty crop research, establishing or sharing best practices for the production of specialty crops, increasing consumption of specialty crops, or other areas that will enhance an aspect of the specialty crop industry in Arkansas and provide support to areas of the specialty crop industry impacted by COVID-19.
To provide input, please complete the short survey found here.
Western Yell County Elementary School was chosen as one of 12 schools statewide to receive shade trees through the 2021 Shade Trees on Playgrounds (S.T.O.P.) program.
Students shared some of their artwork as a thank you.
Forestry Division District 6 staff members installed the new Logan County work center sign.
Forestry Division District 4 staff members conducted a planting site visit.
Ashley County crew assisted an Entergy drone contractor that was stuck.
January 19, 2022, Wind Farms and Solar Farms in Farm Country: Addressing Land Use Conflicts:
Wind has been used in agriculture for millennia to power irrigation and grain grinding while solar energy has been used for crop growth and grain drying. However, while harvesting the sun and wind for distribution through the electric grid may be a non-traditional farming practice, farmland can be an ideal location for a utility-scale wind and solar facility. The terms solar farm and wind farm are a new take on the pairing of renewable energy and agriculture as uses of land. This non-traditional use is on the rise. For example, the 2017 Census of Agriculture shows the number of farms leasing wind rights nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017, growing from 10,181 to 20,072.
Webinar presenter, Peggy Kirk Hall, associate professor at The Ohio State University, says policies that encourage increased production of wind and solar energy can be at odds with those that promote agricultural uses of land. Additionally, Hall says local opposition to utility-scale wind and solar development can be strong. The friction forces a policy decision on whether to prohibit or limit wind and solar development on farmland in the face of mandates and incentives for renewable energy. For more information or to register for this webinar, click here.
Access to Recordings of Past Webinars:
November 17, 2021, The Western Water Crisis and What it Means for Agriculture:
We all know the importance of water to raising American food and growing American fiber. What happens when one of our most critical inputs is compromised across sectors and geographies? Throughout the American West, water storage is falling to unprecedented lows. This webinar discussed the water challenges agriculture faces as well as the opportunities presented by the current water crisis. Attendees were briefed on the current situation by water expert, James Eklund of Eklund Hanlon LLC, whose family has ranched for five generations in the Colorado River Basin. James led a discussion about the next steps for American agriculture considering climate-influenced aridification. View a recording of this webinar here.
The University of Arkansas System's Division of Agriculture will return to in-person meetings for its upcoming 2022 winter production meetings that will begin in January. These meetings are part of the Cooperative Extension Service’s efforts to help Arkansas growers in all areas from field prep to harvest for all commodities.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will accept OTECP applications for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 from November 8, 2021, through February 4, 2022. FSA extended the original signup deadline, which was January 7, 2022. The application period for fiscal year 2022 applications will be announced at a later date.
We need your help. We want to ensure producers and handlers of agricultural commodities that are certified organic, and those transitioning to organic, are aware of this program, the extended signup deadline, and the available resources to apply, including how to contact the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center and FSA’s call center. This toolkit is meant for partners and stakeholder groups to share information in their networks. It includes:
• Key messages,
• Newsletter article reflecting Feb. 4 deadline, and
• Social media posts with graphics reflecting February 4 deadline.
Deadline Extended to Apply for Pandemic Support for Certified Organic and
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended the deadline for agricultural producers who are certified organic, or transitioning to organic, to apply for the Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP). This program provides pandemic assistance to cover certification and education expenses. The deadline to apply for 2020 and 2021 eligible expenses is now February 4, 2022, rather than the original deadline of January 7, 2022.
“We listened to feedback from our stakeholders and are happy to provide organic producers,
and those transitioning their operations, enough time to learn about the program and complete the application,” said Zach Ducheneaux, FSA Administrator.
Signup for OTECP, administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), began November 8.
Certified operations and transitional operations may apply for OTECP for eligible expenses paid during the 2020, 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. Signup for the 2022 fiscal year will be announced at a later date.
For each year, OTECP covers 25% of a certified operation’s eligible certification expenses, up to $250 per certification category (crop, livestock, wild crop, handling and State Organic Program fee). This includes application fees, inspection fees, USDA organic certification costs, state organic program fees and more.
Crop and livestock operations transitioning to organic production may be eligible for 75% of a transitional operation’s eligible expenses, up to $750, for each year. This includes fees charged by a certifying agent or consultant for pre-certification inspections and development of an organic system plan.
For both certified operations and transitional operations, OTECP covers 75% of the registration fees, up to $200, per year, for educational events that include content related to organic production and handling in order to assist operations in increasing their knowledge of production and marketing practices that can improve their operations, increase resilience and expand available marketing opportunities. Additionally, both certified and transitional operations may be eligible for 75% of the expense of soil testing required under the National Organic Program (NOP) to document micronutrient deficiency, not to exceed $100 per year.
Producers apply through their local FSA office and can also obtain one-on-one support with applications by calling 877-508-8364. The program application and additional information can be found at farmers.gov/otecp.
Additional Organic Support
OTECP builds upon USDA’s Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) which provides cost share assistance of 50%, up to a maximum of $500 per scope, to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the NOP. Although the application period for OCCSP ended November 1, 2021, FSA will consider late-filed applications for those operations who still wish to apply.
To learn more about USDA’s broader assistance for organic producers, visit usda.gov/organic.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture's
Annual Report is Available Now!
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture’s Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report provides information about the Department and how it served Arkansas agriculture, our state's largest industry, from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Click here to view the 2021 Annual Report.
Weekly Market Summary
Each Friday, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture publishes a comprehensive Weekly Market Summary, which includes the Arkansas Weekly Livestock Auction Summary and Related Individual Market Sale Summaries, National Weekly Rice Summary, Memphis Weekly Feed Report, Weekly Rice, Grain, Cotton, and Feed Futures Trends, Weekly Livestock and Milk Futures Trends, Bid Prices to Farmers, Arkansas Daily Grain Report, Heading Links for Historical Data, and news.
For the latest in Arkansas agriculture, be sure to follow us on social media! Links to our social media pages can be found here.
Find a career in Arkansas's largest industry!
Are you passionate about Arkansas agriculture? With many new and exciting career opportunities, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is looking for highly motivated individuals to bring their passion for the Arkansas agriculture industry to the workplace. Check out our available positions today on the AR Careers website by searching for "agriculture" or "natural resources."