Wishing All
No-Till Alliance Members
a Merry Christmas
and a
Happy New Year!!
NEWS YOU CAN USE  ~  DECEMBER 21, 2020
A monthly collection of recent news, upcoming events, and articles of interest
Alliance News
Renew Your Membership for 2021 NOW to Take Advantage of a FREE Offer
Through our partnership with our good friends at the Stroud Water Research Center, the Alliance is excited to once again offer FREE membership renewals to any member taking a few extra minutes to complete the Cover Crop and No-Till Survey. (Click here to download the survey.)
 
The Alliance is fortunate to have support of grants administered by the SWRC, but accepting these funds requires certain reporting to ensure that goals are being met. Your farm-specific information will not be shared beyond identifying the watershed involved and definitely not without approval of the Board of Directors of the Alliance.
 
Your membership renewal form can be found by clicking here. Simply return the forms to the PA No-Till Alliance, 2215 Forest Hills Dr., Suite 39, Harrisburg, PA 17112.
 
*The same offer applies to potential new members, so if you have friends or neighbors who would like to join the Alliance, they have the same opportunity to receive a free membership!
Register Today for the 2021 PAES Virtual Conference
Offering Online Education & Credits for CCA's & More

Take Advantage of Budget Friendly Continuing Education VIRTUALLY! Register now for the virtual PA Agronomic Education Conference, scheduled for Thursday, January 21 and Friday, January 22. Following confirmed registration, Zoom links will be issued via email. Each day’s sessions will run from 8:00 am through approximately 12:30 pm. Question and answer will be available.
 
Click here to download the agenda. The deadline to register is Friday, January 15. Questions? Please contact Jay Howes at jhowes@pennag.com or 717-574-4510.
Pennsylvania Establishes a Soil Health Coalition
Pennsylvania – already a national leader in the soil health movement – took a giant leap forward by forming the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition. “We have so many people and organizations in our state doing wonderful work to advance soil health. This coalition provides an opportunity for better collaboration of our efforts,” said Lisa Blazure, soil health coordinator and project lead for Stroud Water Resource Center. The coalition includes sixteen founding organizations ranging from non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies.
 
“Pennsylvania NRCS has long recognized that working with partners is the key to delivering successful soil and water conservation to our farmers. The Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition will help to strengthen our existing partnerships, build new ones, and facilitate communication and coordination, with the goal of building soil health across the state,” according to Denise Coleman, state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
 
The coalition is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund which receives funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NRCS, and Altria. The fund promotes community-based efforts to develop conservation strategies to protect and restore the diverse natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay. The coalition strives to increase the adoption of soil health practices to meet both water quality and farm production goals. “Healthy soils are a win for the farmers, a win for the environment, and a win for society, with the ability to grow healthy foods in a more sustainable way,” said Blazure.
 
The coalition will focus on farmer support, educational events, and research projects. It will advance the understanding of the critical role that improving soil health has for a sustainable farm operation and also in meeting environmental goals, including the sequestration of atmospheric carbon, which is crucial to climate change mitigation.
 
The efforts of these partner organizations have propelled Pennsylvania as a national leader in the adoption of no-till planting and cover crops – two key practices for building soil health. According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the state is sixth in the nation for no-till planting (at 67%) and third in the nation for the percentage of commodity acres planted with covers (37.2%). But there is still opportunity for additional growth.
 
“The Soil Health Coalition is a great initiative to put our minds, passions, expertise, and resources together so we can make a major impact on soil health in our state. When we work together, major change is possible. I look forward to seeing what will be accomplished and what we will learn about the widespread benefits of improved soil health,” says Sjoerd Duiker, soil management specialist with Penn State University.
 
For more information including contacts for our member organizations, please visit the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition website at pasoilhealth.org or contact Lisa Blazure at lblazure@stroudcenter.org.
Alliance Directors Discuss Soil Health in Lancaster Newspaper Article
From LNP Lancaster Online Dec. 10, 2020

Carrying a long, narrow shovel, Steve Groff walked into a field on his Holtwood farm, pausing when he reached the right spot to thrust the tool into the earth.

With a wiggle, he pulled up to remove a clump of dirt, showing how radish roots held the soil together as earthworms crawled through it.

It was a sign, Groff said, that the field was made up of healthy soil -- soil that can help capture water pollutants, reduce carbon emissions, soak up floodwaters and even produce more nutritious foods.
“It’s like the best of both worlds, really,” Groff said, emphasizing the benefits to both farmers and the environment.

Groff gave the tour of his farm on Tuesday afternoon, just days after the announcement that some Lancaster County farmers are planning to work with the Pennsylvania Soil Health Coalition, a newly created statewide group geared toward promoting conservation-based farming practices.

These are practices that could go a long way toward meeting government-mandated pollution reduction goals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, according to Lisa Blazure, a soil health coordinator at Stroud Water Research Center. That’s especially true in Lancaster County, where farmers have been blamed for contributing a big share of waterway pollution that ultimately flows downstream to the bay, she said.

 Officials at Stroud, based in neighboring Chester County, are spearheading the coalition, which seeks to unify ongoing efforts by more than a dozen soil-oriented organizations, Blazure said.

“We needed some better communication and coordination among all of these different players that were starting these soil-health initiatives,” she said.

For the most part, Blazure said, those initiatives aim to tackle a single issue -- the centuries-old practice of tilling agricultural land, using machinery to turn over and loosen soil before planting. During heavy rainfall, that loosened soil can easily be washed away, sending dirt and related nutrients into farm-side streams.
That’s where peer-based education comes into play, according to Jim Hershey, an Elizabethtown-area farmer and president of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance, another coalition member organization.

“Our main goal is to provide a farmer-to-farmer network, a farmer-to-farmer support group,” Hershey said.
On his 500-acre Hershey Farms, the namesake farmer uses specialized equipment that allows him to plant seeds without tilling.

He also plants cover crops after cash crops are harvested, ensuring there are plants in the ground to hold the soil in place during fall and winter rains.

Keeping the planting surface intact and secured with roots year-round anchors nutrients and soil particles, securing them not just from water erosion. Healthy soil can prevent organic material from being emitted into the air as carbon, a climate-change driver, Blazure said.

On top of that, the conservation practices promote below-surface habitat, allowing for microscopic organisms and earthworms to thrive and create fertile, sponge-like soil conditions that require less use of fertilizer and pesticides, she said.

That spongy soil can then better soak up floodwaters during heavy storms and retain moisture through periods of drought.

“I have yet to find a downside for soil health. It’s a win for the farmers; it’s a win for the environment; and now we are starting to see that it’s a win for society and the consumers,” Blazure said. “We are seeing that foods and crops that are grown in healthy soils have higher nutritional density.”
Ag Articles of Interest
REAP Tax Credits Still Available
The State Conservation Commission recently confirmed that the full $13 million in tax credits will be available in the PA FY 2020-2021 budget. At present they expect credits to be available through the first quarter of 2021.

Full details are available by visiting the PA REAP website.
Employment Outlook is Promising for New College Graduates in Agriculture
A new report, released recently by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, shows a strong job demand for new college graduates with degrees in agricultural programs. U.S. college graduates can expect approximately 59,400 job opportunities annually between 2020 and 2025. This reflects a 2.6 percent growth from the previous five years. Employer demand will exceed the supply of available graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields.
 
The preparation of the report began before the coronavirus pandemic when global socio-economic conditions looked much differently than they do at the release of this report.
 
Graduates earning degrees with emphasis in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment (FARNRE) will account for 61 percent of the annual supply pool. Most of the employment opportunities will be in business and management at 42 percent and another 31 percent in science and engineering. Openings anticipated in education, communication and government will make up 14 percent, and 13 percent will be in food and biomaterials production with nearly 92 percent of those jobs going to FARNRE majors.
 
Other highlights of the report include:

  • Over the past two decades and across all levels of degree attainment, more females than males have graduated in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment.
  • Some majors tend to attract a greater proportion of female students, including animal sciences, agricultural education, agricultural communication and veterinary medicine.
  • Other majors tend to attract more male students, including agricultural engineering, forestry, agronomy and crop science.
  • There will be a strong demand for graduates with expertise in data science across all disciplines.
  • Expect to see strong employment for specialists in marketing, e-commerce, field technical service, water quality and environment, climate and invasive species, food technology, and environmental and rural policy.
 
The reportEmployment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment, United States, 2020–2025 is ninth in a report series of five-year projections initiated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1980.
Farm Show Town Hall Meeting with PSU Dean Rick Roush and Secretary Russell Redding
Also during the 2021 Virtual Farm Show, join the Dean of Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Rick Roush, and the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Russell Redding, for a discussion and Q&A on Pennsylvania agriculture. The live zoom event will be held Wednesday, January 13 from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM ET. Interested in participating? Click here to register.
Agricultural Law Symposium at the PA Farm Show
As part of the virtual 2021 PA Farm Show, the Penn State Center for Agricultural and Shale Law will host an Agricultural Law Symposium January 12 and 14.
 
All sessions are free of charge and presented on-line via ZOOM. Click here to register. (Registration required in order to receive symposium materials.)
 
Each day will consist of two one-hour sessions on current topics in agricultural law. 4 CLE credits for PA licensed attorneys available (approval pending).
 
Tuesday, January 12, 2021 (1:00 – 3:15 pm)
                  
1:00 pm - The Year 2020 in Agricultural Law: The Year of Living Dangerously, Ross H. Pifer (Director) and Audry Thompson (Research Assistant) from the Center will review the biggest developments in agricultural law in 2020.   
 
2:15 pm - Utility Scale Solar Leasing: How It Works and When It Doesn’t* , Brook Duer (Staff Attorney) from the Center and Doug Wolfgang, Director of PDA’s Bureau of Farmland Preservation, will provide landowners with an in-depth look at leasing land for grid-scale solar electrical generation and how existing ag programs may conflict with a solar lease.
 
*This webinar is part of 2021 Virtual Farm Show educational programming on solar energy conducted jointly with Pennsylvania DEP and Penn State Extension.
 
Thursday, January 14, 2021 (1:00 – 3:15 pm)
 
1:00 pm - Chesapeake Bay Developments: Moving the Ball or the Goal Line?, Brook Duer (Staff Attorney) from the Center will moderate a discussion between special guests Lara B. Fowler, Esq. of Penn State Law and Paul Goeringer, Esq. from the University of Maryland, College Agriculture and Natural Resources on the recently filed Chesapeake Bay litigation against the EPA, the pending Conowingo Dam re-licensure settlement and the impending Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan. 
 
2:15 pm - Pesticide Drama & Non-Target Liability, Jackie Schweichler (Staff Attorney) and Chloe Marie (Research Specialist) from the Center will review civil liability for non-target property damage from dicamba and other pesticides/herbicides, 2020’s court-ordered dicamba registration cancellation and new 5-year EPA registration, the status of glyphosate personal injury litigation/settlements and state actions on chlorpyrifos. 
New Administration Supports Cover Crops
When announcing his choice of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of the USDA, president-elect Biden indicated that financial support for farmers planting cover crops would be a priority.

“He [Vilsack] helped develop my rural plan for America in the campaign and now he will carry it out. That includes making American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and create new sources of income for farmers in the process, by paying farmers to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops that use the soil to capture carbon,” said the president-elect.

Read full story here.
Thank You Alliance Sponsors
Gold Sponsors
Lancaster Farming
MM Weaver and Sons
Stroud Water Research Center

Silver Sponsors
AgChoice and Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit
DuPont Pioneer
Gro-Mor Plant Food, Inc.
Melvin Weaver & Sons

Bronze Sponsors
American Dairy Association North East
Bayer CropScience
Fulton Bank
King's AgriSeeds
PA Grain Processing, LLC
Univest Financial Corporation

Sponsor
Bottom Line Ag Supply
Hostetter Grain, Inc.
Rosetree Consulting
The Mill
TIMAC USA
Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance
2215 Forest Hills Drive, Suite 39, Harrisburg, PA 17112