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Injury Risk Assessment for Supervised Agricultural Experiences

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:40

(Source: Utah State University)

A supervised agricultural experience (SAE) is one of the three key components of an agricultural education program for high school students. An SAE provides a student with an experiential learning opportunity and is based on one or more of the following categories: entrepreneurship, placement, research and experimentation, or exploration.

Importance of an Injury Risk Assessment Protocol for SAEs

The SAE is a broadly defined experience for students and can include but is not limited to working in a job or an internship on a farm or ranch, owning and operating an agricultural business, planning and conducting a scientific experiment, or exploring agricultural career opportunities. The Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs protocol is a resource for evaluating work sites to assess risks for individuals involved with production-based SAEs on those work sites. Production-based SAE safety evaluations and risk assessments must be integral parts of agricultural educators’ visits to production-based SAE sites. Click here to learn more about the importance of safety in production-based SAEs.

Components of the Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs Protocol

The Injury Risk Assessment for SAEs protocol includes the following components: 

SAE Safety Daily Lesson Plan – The daily lesson plan provides agricultural educators with a complete 30-minute lesson that includes an SAE Safety slide presentation.

SAE Code of Practice for Safety Risk Assessment – Educators, employers, and/or parents can have students review and sign this agreement form to state that they will represent their school and FFA Chapter positively with regard to promoting and strengthening student safety while completing an SAE. The Code of Practice should be completed at the beginning of a student’s SAE or the beginning of each school year or as an assignment related to a unit of instruction in an SAE.

Student Self-Assessment of SAE – Students complete this self-evaluation to assess an SAE in relation to supervision, working conditions, and emergencies. The self-assessment should be completed by students as an assignment within the first two weeks of an SAE. An administrator of the SAE should file the completed form for future reference.

Teacher/Parent/Employer Safety Assessment of Student’s SAE – This easy-to-use assessment form was developed specifically for a teacher, a parent, or an employer to conduct a safety assessment of a student’s SAE, based on the job, working conditions, and injury preparedness. Ideally, this form should be completed after the student completes the SAE Code of Practice and Student Self-Assessment documents and after or in conjunction with a scheduled SAE visit. Again, an administrator of the SAE should file the completed form for future reference.

Return to the Safety in Agriculture for Youth (SAY) page.

  Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Dave E. Hill, Penn State University (Has since retired) Rebecca G. Lawver, Utah State University – Rebecca.lawver@usu.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Penn State University (Has since retired) Michael Pate, Penn State University – mlp79@psu.edu

Fires in the Home: Prevention and Preparedness

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:35
Use the following format to cite this article:

Fires in the home: Prevention and preparedness. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63194/fires-in-the-home:-prevention-and-preparedness.


A fire can happen anywhere and at any time in a home. Fires and burns are the main causes of accidental injury deaths at home, with older adults and small children at the greatest risk. Careless smoking is the leading cause of accidental fires.

The recommendations in this article can help you reduce the risk of a home fire and prepare your family in the event of a fire. In addition to these recommendations, make sure that everyone in your house knows how to call 911 in the event of an emergency.

Smoke Detectors/Alarms

Smoke detectors are designed to detect fires and alert building occupants to the presence of smoke. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the use of smoke detectors can reduce the risk of fire fatality by approximately 50%.

Smoke detectors are necessary on every level of a home and especially outside of sleeping areas. Maintain smoke detectors by testing them every month and changing the batteries twice a year. To help you remember to change the batteries regularly, make a habit of changing smoke detector batteries in the spring and fall when you change your clocks to adjust for daylight saving time. Residential guidelines for smoke detector installation and maintenance vary by state.

Fire Extinguishers

Multiple fire extinguishers should be located strategically throughout your home. Always keep an all-purpose ABC fire extinguisher (rated for ordinary combustibles, grease, and electrical fires) in your kitchen. Place the kitchen extinguisher in a location that is easy to reach in the event of a stove fire. Keep additional fire extinguishers in areas where fires are likely to start, such as the garage or near the furnace.

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Everyone in your household should know the location of fire extinguishers, and those family members who are capable should be trained in how to use them properly. To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS:

P - Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.

A - Aim low. Point the nozzle of the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

S - Squeeze. Slowly and evenly squeeze the lever.

S - Sweep. Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Fire extinguishers are affordable and can save lives and property. The most versatile type of extinguisher is a 10 lb., ABC extinguisher, which can be used on different types of fires. Each of the following types of fire extinguishers is designed to put out a specific type of fire.

Fires Extinguishers and Usage Extinguisher Class Usage Class A Fires of combustible materials such as clothing, wood, rubber, paper, and some plastics Class B Fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints Class C Fires that involve appliances, tools, or other types of equipment plugged into an electrical outlet Class D Fires involving flammable metals; typically found in factories Class K Fires involving vegetable oil, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances; typically found in commercial kitchens, but the residential market continues to grow Multipurpose   Different types as described in the categories above (for example, ABC or BC) 

Like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers require regular maintenance. You should shake dry chemical extinguishers monthly to prevent the powder from settling. Follow the manufacturer’s directions concerning pressure testing and replace a unit if it will not charge or is damaged.

View  the video below about fire extinguisher usage by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association.

Video of How to Use a Portable Fire Extinguisher Training Video Escape Routes and Plans

Before a fire occurs, develop an escape route with your family. An escape route should be planned for each area of the home and should include a designated family meeting area in an outside location away from the fire. Draw a map and practice the escape route so that every family member is familiar with the plan. Instruct family members to crawl underneath the smoke when escaping a fire and to "stop, drop, and roll" if their clothing is on fire.

If your home has multiple levels, purchase an escape ladder to provide safe exit from upper levels. All family members need to know the location of the escape ladder and be familiar with its use. Sleeping rooms should have two routes of escape, such as a door and a window. If a window is an exit route, make sure that the window opens properly. Once you and your family are out of the house, call 911 and do not go back into the house for any reason.


Click HERE to visit the U.S. Fire Administration website for information and resources to plan your home fire escape route.

Click HERE to be directed to a Fire Safety for Kids infographic provided by ContractQuotes.us.

  Use the following format to cite this article:

Fires in the home: Prevention and preparedness. (2012). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63194/fires-in-the-home:-prevention-and-preparedness.



Choosing and using fire extinguishers. (2015) U.S. Fire Administration. Retrieved from http://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/extinguishers.html.

Home fire escape planning outreach materials. (2014) U.S. Fire Administration. Retrieved from http://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/escape.html.

Keeping kids safe from fires. (2015) U.S. Fire Administration. Retrieved from http://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/children.html.


Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Dave Hill, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Jimmy Maass, Virginia Farm Bureau (Has since retired) Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Manure Foaming

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 12:34

Foaming Manure - Source: Schimdt, UMN.


Use the following format to cite this article:

Manure foaming. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63144/manure-foaming.


Foam in manure pits can be a danger both to animals and workers around the pits. Manure foaming occurs primarily in hog facilities, most commonly in the midwestern United States and Canada. The causes of manure foaming remain a mystery. Manure foaming is not predictable, and no known solutions work in every situation. It is therefore important to understand the risks posed by foaming manure and ways to reduce those risks.

Foam is defined as a mass of bubbles of gas on the surface of a liquid. Rather than being crusty or fluffy, foaming manure has a thick, mucous consistency. In manure pits, the bubbles do not burst but rather cling together.

One theory suggests that a specific microbial population causes foaming in manure pits. Another theory suggests that filamentous microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, or algae) are the cause. Neither theory has been confirmed, and research into the causes of manure foaming continues. Possible triggers include a high content of manure solids resulting from water conservation practices; cool weather patterns; reduced antibiotic use; feeding or diet adjustments; changes in DDGS; changes in corn, including genetic modifications; moldy and/or lightweight corn; and changes in the type or quantity of fat fed to the animals. 

Dangers of Foaming Manure

Foam in manure pits may be linked to suffocation of hogs and incidents of fire and explosion. Methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) are gases produced during the anaerobic breakdown of manure. Methane is a highly flammable gas that can lead to asphyxiation at high levels. The foam in manure pits captures methane, resulting in concentrations of methane in the foam that can be as high as 60% to 70% (600,000 to 700,000 ppm), which is higher than the concentration at which explosions can occur. When the foam bubbles are disturbed or broken, the captured methane is released at an explosive concentration of 5% to 20% (50,000 to 200,000 ppm). If there is an ignition source near an explosive concentration of methane, an explosion or a flash fire could occur. 

Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs at low levels but can overcome a person’s sense of smell at levels of 100 ppm or higher. Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air and can collect in the floor or lower areas of the pit. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide can cause eye and nose irritation, headache, nausea, and death.

In addition to the danger of explosion or fire, foaming manure poses an asphyxiation risk for both people and hogs when foam rises through the slats in a barn. Anyone working within the building or in the immediate area should be informed about the dangers of foaming manure, including the hazards of methane and hydrogen sulfide. No smoking should be permitted in or near the building.

Methods of Treatment

There are no proven ways to prevent manure foaming; at present, the focus remains on treating the symptoms. Below are some treatments that have yielded mixed results:

  • Water – Spraying water, running sprinklers, or using soaker systems can break the bubbles in foam, releasing the methane in a relatively safe manner. If you are using water to break down foam, remember to follow recommended ventilation practices.
  • Antifoam agents – There are several antifoam agents on the market. Although some have had limited success in reducing foam, none have proven effective on a consistent basis.
  • Microbial enhancements – Microbial enhancements, typically in the form of feed or manure additives, have been effective on an inconsistent basis.
  • Microbial control – Microbial control refers to changes in pH or oxygen levels or the use of antibiotics.

Due to the unpredictable nature of manure foaming, you should complete an audit of manure pits at least once a month. The purpose of the audit is to monitor pits for changes in manure consistency, increases in foam, and other such indicators of a potential problem. Based on information gathered in the audit, you can make necessary management decisions about using a treatment or changing the pumping schedule.

Emergency Action Plans

Develop an emergency action plan and review it annually with employees. It is especially important that anyone on-site during pit pumping receive training about the action plan. The emergency action plan should include a list of clean-up and containment practices in the event of an overflow, breach, leak, fire, or emergency land application. Due to the potential risk of fire or explosion, include in the action plan an evacuation route for employees. In addition, make sure that all employees know the location of fire extinguishers, hose cabinets, fire blankets, and other types of safety equipment. As a farm or ranch manager, make sure that you have necessary safety equipment and that it is in proper working order.

During pit pumping, remember to keep on hand the contact information of first responders, including the fire department, hospital, and police. When calling 911, give your name, location, contact information, and details about the emergency. 

Precautions during Agitation and Pumping

When foaming manure is present, the risk of explosion necessitates additional precautions during pit agitation and pumping. It is strongly recommended that you pump manure pits when the barn is empty. People should remain outside of the building during agitation and pumping. After checking that everyone is out of the facility, add a physical barrier such as yellow caution tape or place warning signs to ensure that no one enters the facility during the process.

Any ignition sources should be turned off and locked out. Possible ignition sources include welders, heaters, motors, and other equipment, such as a feeding system, that uses electricity. (Because of the importance of ventilation, discussed in the next section, ventilation systems that use electricity may operate during agitation and pumping.) 

Do not agitate the manure until the top of the manure surface is at least two feet below the floor slats. Agitate the manure below the surface of the liquid manure and stop the process if you can no longer agitate below the surface level. Agitate intermittently to reduce the risk of sudden gas release.

When possible, cover pump-out ports unless they are needed for agitation or manure load-out, and cover the pump-out around the agitation with a tarp. After pumping is complete, remember to secure manure pit covers.

Ventilation during Agitation and Pumping

Proper ventilation is one of the most important safety measures during agitation and pumping of manure pits. Regularly check your ventilation system to ensure that it is in proper working condition. Use a ventilation rate of 20 to 30 cfm per animal to dilute the methane concentration below 5%. Ventilation inlets, curtains, and pivot doors should be open during the ventilation process. For naturally ventilated barns, make sure that inlets and outlets are open. Circulation fans used in the summer do not provide the necessary air exchange needed during agitation or pumping, so plan these processes for days when wind is present to increase the amount of fresh air circulating through the building.

Ventilation for Curtain-Sided Barns

Ventilation procedures for curtain-sided barns differ slightly depending on weather conditions. When the weather is warm with winds over 5 mph, run exhaust fans while the curtains are open. On a calm day, the sidewall curtains should remain closed with the fans running. If, however, you are running more than half of the fans, the curtains should remain open during the pumping process. During colder weather, keep the curtains closed while running the exhaust fans.

If you are using a stir fan, use a horizontally directed fan rather than a fan directed downward, to reduce pockets of gas concentrations and to ensure that contaminated gas does not blow back onto hogs. Ventilate for approximately one to two hours after pumping and prior to entering the barn.

Ventilation for Tunnel-Ventilated Barns

During warm or hot weather, run all of the pit fans and a minimum of two tunnel fans. The procedure is slightly different for cold or moderate weather, but you should nevertheless run all of the pit fans and the 36 in. fan and open the tunnel curtain approximately 6 to 12 in. to provide air movement through the entire length of the barn. Remember to reduce the static pressure of the inlet velocity at the tunnel curtain from the regular setting of 800 fpm to 1,000 fpm to a lower setting of 300 fpm to 400 fpm. During both cold and hot weather, partially close mechanized/motorized ceiling inlets to allow air to enter from the tunnel curtain. Ventilate for approximately one to two hours after pumping and prior to entering the barn.





Click here to watch an informative video by Dr. David Schmidt from Iowa State University Extension about foaming manure pits.


Use the following format to cite this article:

Manure foaming. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63144/manure-foaming.



Burns, R. & Moody, L. (2009) Literature review – deep pit swine facility flash fires and explosions: Sources, occurrences, factors, and management. Iowa State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. No longer available online.

Foaming manure. (2011) Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. Retrieved from http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/swine/news/mayjun10a1.htm.

Jacobson, L. (n.d.) Safety measures to prevent barn explosions during pit pumping. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from http://www.agweb.com/article/safety-measures-to-prevent-barn-explosions-....

Rieck-Hinz, A., Shouse, S., & Brenneman, G. (2010) A top ten list: Preparing for fall manure application. Iowa State University, Iowa Manure Management Action Group. Retrieved from http://www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/info/toptenlist.pdf.

Understanding foam and pump-out safety. (2010) Iowa Pork Producers Association. Retrieved from http://www.farmerscoopsociety.com/userfiles/file/Understanding%20Foam%20....


Reviewers, Contributors and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu LaMar Grafft, East Carolina University – grafftl@ecu.edu Davis E. Hill, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Ron Odell, Cactus Feeders, LTD. – ron-odell@cactusfeeders.com Cheryl Skjolaas, University of Wisconsin – skjolaas@wisc.edu Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Age-Appropriate Tasks for Children on Farms and Ranches

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 17:56
Use the following format to cite this article:

Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63149/age-appropriate-tasks-for-children-on-farms-and-ranches.


Children play an active role on many farms and ranches, but it is the responsibility of parents, caregivers, or supervisors to assign them age-appropriate tasks, restrict access to work areas, give easy-to-understand instructions, provide personal protective equipment (PPE), maintain equipment with operational safety devices, and provide supervision to reduce the risk of injury or death. The most common causes of agricultural-related fatalities for children are machinery or tractor accidents, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents, including accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Most nonfatal injuries result from falls or incidents with livestock.

Because rates of physical and mental development can vary from child to child, understanding how children develop is critical to identifying age-appropriate tasks for them. A child’s size, strength, motor skills, and coordination are all factors in determining whether he or she is physically able to complete certain tasks. But you must also determine whether a child has the cognitive skills to understand and follow instructions, make good decisions, and understand that unsafe actions may have consequences that lead to injury or death. Click here to view Children and Safety on the Farm, a publication furnished by Penn State Extension that provides a comprehensive chart of the developmental characteristics of children from birth through age 18 and offers details about how children develop, common causes of injury or death for each age group, strategies to prevent accidents, and appropriate work tasks.

Choosing the Right Tasks

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

Children are eager to work on the farm or ranch alongside other family or team members. However, it is important to understand that each farm task has a certain level of risk associated with it. Children working on a farm or ranch need the appropriate physical and cognitive maturity to complete any assigned tasks. The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) guidelines are contained in a searchable database that enables you to identify a farm task and follow a checklist  to determine a child’s ability to complete the task. Click here to be linked to the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety - Safety Guidelines to determine whether a farm task is appropriate for a child.

Key Points about Children Working on Farms and Ranches:
  • A child should never be an extra rider on a tractor. The rule is "one seat one rider."
  • Supervise all children. Do not leave them alone on the farm or ranch.
  • Provide children with the appropriate PPE for a given task and teach children the proper use and fit of any items of PPE.
  • Keep equipment in proper working condition.
  • Do not allow visiting children into farm work areas; restrict such areas to children working on the farm.
  • Be a good role model by wearing PPE and following safe operating procedures.
  • If children are not physically and cognitively ready to work on the farm, ensure that they have appropriate child care and are not in farm work areas.
  • Routinely inspect your farm or ranch for hazards and immediately remove these dangers.
  • Encourage children to participate in local farm and ranch safety activities. To learn more about farm safety activities in your area, contact your local Cooperative Extension office. Click here to link to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) listing of Cooperative Extension offices.


Use the following format to cite this article:


Age-appropriate tasks for children on farms and ranches. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63149/age-appropriate-tasks-for-children-on-farms-and-ranches.



2011 Fact Sheet: Childhood Agricultural Injuries. (2011) National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety. Retrieved from https://www3.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy///mcrf-centers-nfmc-nccrahs-chil....

Graham, L. & Oesterreich, L. (2004) Farm safety for young children. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=5097.

Murphy, D. & Hackett, K. (1997) Children and safety on the farm. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/FreePubs/pdfs/ub030.pdf.

National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety - Safety Guidelines (2017) Retrieved from  https://www.cultivatesafety.org/safety-guidelines-search/?category=famil....

Schwab, C., Shutske, J., & Miller, L. (2001) Match age, abilities to farm chores. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=4994.

Youth agricultural safety. (2003) Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-resources-childr....


Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Prosper Doamekpor, Tuskegee University – doamekpor@mytu.tuskegee.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Michael Pate, Pennsylvania State University – mlp79@psu.edu Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Eye Protection for Agricultural Workers

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 17:51
Use the following format to cite this article:

Eye protection. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66976/eye-protection-for-agricultural-workers.


Personal protective equipment (PPE) is important for agricultural producers to reduce their risk of injury or death. Most eye injuries can be prevented by wearing the appropriate PPE.

Injuries to the eye can be expensive, painful, and may cause partial or total blindness. Proper eye protection is the best strategy in preventing eye injuries because most eye injuries are a result of flying particles. The eye has its own built-in protection from the surrounding bone structure, eyelashes, tearing, and blinking; but they are no match for particles entering the eye at a high rate of speed. Eye protection should be worn when completing the following types of jobs: feed grinding, handling chemicals, haying, welding, repairing equipment, and any task completed in a dusty environment.

Types of Eye Protection

There are 5 types of eye protection. Choose the type that best suits your vision and provides the best protection for the job that you are completing.

Basic Safety Glasses

(Source: Pennsylvania State University. Agricultural Safety and Health)

A pair of basic safety glasses provides protection when there is potential for particles to enter the eye from the front. Safety lenses in regular eyeglass frames are not considered suitable safety glasses. Most basic safety glasses do not provide side protection, but side protection is available on some safety glasses through either permanent or detachable side shields to protect the eye from above, below and on the sides. When choosing safety glasses with side protection, make sure that the sides do not interfere with your peripheral vision.

Prescription Safety Glasses

Prescription safety glasses are made of either plastic or metal and are available in both bifocals and tinted lenses. Use caution when choosing tinted lenses because these lenses take time for the tinting to disappear which can be hazardous when frequently going between inside and outside work areas. Choose tint lenses when activities may include bright flashes of light.


Goggles provide inexpensive protection from all angles because they fit snugly around the eyes. This type of eye protection is especially good for jobs such as chainsaw operation, grinding, and riveting. Goggles are especially useful because they typically fit over most prescription eyeglasses and are usually ventilated with an anti-fog solution. Two of the most common models of goggles are eyecup or wire mesh. If working around chemicals, choose goggles with off-set ventilation ports.

Face Shields

Face shields are secondary protection and must be worn in conjunction with either glasses or goggles. This type of eye protection is especially designed to protect the user from heat, glare, and flying objects. Face shields can be attached to hard hats for those jobs that also require head protection.

Welding Helmets and Goggles

Welding Helmet. Photo source: Penn State University


A welding helmet is equipped with special filtering lenses that protect the eyes from the strong ultraviolet and infrared rays that can permanently damage eyes and cause blindness. Welding goggles have various filter lens shades to protect against sparks, rays, and flying particles. Talk with your local dealer to determine the filter lens shade that you need for the various types of welding. Stationary or lift-front lenses are available for both welding helmets and goggles.


Standards for Eye Protection

ANSI and ISEA standards for eye protection are determined based on the identified hazard in the workplace. Lenses that are ranked as basic are designated as Z87, but high impact lenses have a Z87+ designation.

Additional recommendations concerning eye protection include the following:

  • Do not share eye protection to reduce the risk of contracting a contagious eye disease from another worker.
  • Even though sunglasses are important for working outdoors, they are not considered to be eye protection.
Maintenance of Eye Protection

Regularly clean your protective eyewear in warm, soapy water because looking through dirty lenses can strain your eyes. Use a soft tissue or cloth to dry the lenses to reduce the risk of scratches because deep scratches or pitting may weaken the lenses. Goggles should fit snuggly over your eyes so replace elastic goggle headbands when they become stretched. Store your protective eyewear in a rigid case to reduce dust build-up and potential damage to delicate parts.

Maintain proper vision by having your eyes examined annually. Vision changes can occur that may require a prescription change or the need for prescription eye protection. If you wear contacts, always wear protective eyewear in work areas. The recommendation is to wear prescription eye protection instead of contacts especially in dusty environments because contact lenses may trap particles in the eye.

First Aid for Eye Injuries

The following chart outlines the first aid response to different eye injuries:

Type of Injury Proper Treatment Actions to Avoid Foreign particle in the eye Flush the eye with water until the object rinses out. If unable to flush the particle out, cover the eye and seek medical attention. Do not rub your eye because your eye could be scratched or embed the object. Object embedded in the eye Bandage both eyes and seek medical attention Do not attempt to remove the object. Cut near the eye Loosely bandage both eyes and seek medical attention Do not rub, press, or wash the cut because it could cause further damage. Bump or bruise near the eye Apply a cold compress for 15 minutes to reduce swell and seek medical attention.   Welding arc burn Keep eyes closed and seek medical attention. The victim may or may not feel pain immediately but eye may be sensitive to light, red, or swollen for up 12 hours after the incident.   Resources:

For more information, click on a related personal protective topic below:

Head Protection for Agricultural Producers

Hearing Loss and Protection for Agricultural Producers

Respiratory Protection for the Farm and Ranch


Click on one of the organization links below to purchase eye protection:

New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health

  Use the following format to cite this article:

Eye protection. (2013). Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/66976/eye-protection-for-agricultural-workers.



Harvesting health. (2010) National farm Medicine Center. Retrieved from http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/proxy/mcrf-centers-nfmc-resources-hh-eyeprotection1-10.1.pdf.

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2012) Head, eye, and foot protection for farm workers. Penn State Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/head-eye-and-foot-protection-for-farm-workers.


Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Prosper Doamekpor, Tuskegee University - doamekpor@mytu.tuskegee.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Skid Steer Safety

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 17:49
Use the following format to cite this article:

Skid Steer Safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/64425/skid-steer-safety.  


A skid steer is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment on a farm or ranch because it is designed to maneuver easily in tight spaces and has a variety of attachments to complete multiple jobs. Injuries from skid steer incidents can be extremely severe and include amputations, crushing injuries, mangled limbs, and death. Operators may recognize specific hazards but often fail to consider secondary factors, such as ice, mud, and slick work areas, that may increase the risk of an incident.

The most common types of incidents from skid steer usage include:

  • running over bystanders, including children or the operator
  • entrapment or crushing, which can happen when the operator or helper is caught between an attachment and the frame of the skid steer
  • entrapment of the operator when a load rolls or drops onto him or her while he or she is in the operator station
  • rollover, which can occur when the skid steer is operated on a steep slope or uneven terrain
  • tipping of the skid steer due to a heavy load or attachment in the front
  • falls while improperly mounting or dismounting the skid steer
  • injection injuries caused when pressurized hydraulic fluid is injected into a person’s body
  • crushing or pinching injuries to hands and fingers as a result of improper hooking and unhooking of an attachment
Center of Gravity

Photo Source: CASE Construction Equipment/CASE IH

The center of gravity for a skid steer constantly shifts depending on the job and attachment. Typically, the weight of the skid steer is concentrated at the rear of the machine between the wheels. However, weight at the front of the skid steer, as when moving items with a bucket or an attachment, shifts the center of gravity forward and higher.

  • When you are carrying a load, whether in the bucket or an attachment, carry the load low to maintain a lower center of gravity and to increase stability and improve visibility.
  • When traveling uphill, remember to keep the heavy part of the machine and load pointed uphill.
  • If you have an empty bucket, you should back up a hill, but if the bucket is full, drive forward up the hill.
  • Recommended travel for a skid steer is up and down a slope rather than across.

Recommended Safety Features

The “zone of protection” on a skid steer includes the rollover protective structure (ROPS), a falling object protective structure (FOPS), side screens, and an operator restraint. All of these features are meant to reduce the risk of operator injury or death. The ROPS protects the operator in the event of an overturn, and the FOPS provides protection from objects that fall on top of the operator cab. Side screens are designed to protect the operator from being caught between the lift arms and the skid steer frame and to keep protrusions (e.g., limbs) from striking the operator. When the seat belt or seat-bar restraint is used, the operator remains securely in the operator seat. If your skid steer is an older model, contact your local dealer to discuss the possibility of retrofitting your skid steer with these safety features.

Some skid loaders used on farms or ranches may not have reverse signal alarms and beacon lights. However, these safety features can be installed after-market. These features provide notice of your skid steer movement to other workers in the area, possibly preventing a run-over or pinning incident.

Interlocks and Attachments

An interlock device is an electrical or hydraulic system lock that is tied in to the operator restraint system to mechanically lock the lift arms. Never disable this interlock, and require everyone to use it, because it prevents the engine from starting or they hydraulics from engaging if the operator restraint is not properly fastened or positioned. To avoid the potential risk of a crushing injury, ensure that all operators engage the hydraulic cylinder lift-arm lockout device when the boom is in the upright position for any repairs or maintenance. The lockout can be engaged from inside or outside the operator’s cab and should be inspected regularly to maintain proper operation.

A farmer or rancher may change attachments on the skid steer multiple times per day to complete different tasks. The safest way to secure the attachments to the skid loader is to turn off the skid loader, properly exit the machine, and secure the locking levers. If another person plans to secure the locking lever, you still must shut off the machine to avoid the potential risk of an injury to the helper.

All skid steer operators should be trained to properly secure the locking levers. If the locking levers are not properly locked, the attachment can become unfastened while in use or when the arms are raised, posing a risk to the operator and other workers.

Hydraulic System

The hydraulic pressure system, which often exceeds 2,000 psi, is an often overlooked hazard. Hydraulic hoses can develop pinhole leaks. Never use your hands to search for a leak because hydraulic oil injected into a person’s skin requires immediate emergency medical treatment. Amputation of a hand or an arm may result from lack of medical attention. The recommended method is to use a piece of cardboard or mirror to pass over the suspected leak.

Fix all leaks immediately, but remember that hydraulic hoses and fittings can be hot enough to cause burns. Sense for excessive heat by placing your gloved hand near the component.

When connecting hydraulic hoses, they should be routed to avoid pinching of the hose between the lift arms and the bucket or attachment.

Always shut down the skid steer and relieve the system pressure before connecting or disconnecting hoses.

Personal Protective Equipment

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a necessary part of your safety plan for your farm or ranch. Anyone operating a skid steer should wear a bump cap or hard hat, steel-toed shoes, long pants, and gloves. Depending on the job and the machine, hearing and eye protection may also be necessary. Eye protection should be worn when checking hydraulic hoses and connections or any other components that generate the potential for flying particles or sprayed or splashed liquids. 

Operating a Skid Steer
  • If you must operate a skid steer inside a building, increase the ventilation by opening doors and windows and using exhaust fans to reduce exposure to exhaust fumes. Shut off the machine and take frequent breaks outside the building.
  • Do not allow riders anywhere on the skid steer (e.g., in the bucket, on the operator's lap, and so on). Skid steers are a one-person machine.
  • Read, understand, and follow recommendations in the manufacturer’s owner's manual for your skid steer.
  • Never bypass or modify safety devices.
  • Know your blind spots because in those blind spots could be people, vehicles, equipment, or buildings.
  • Never swing, lift, or move a load over a person.
  • Wear snug-fitting clothing that will not catch on levers.
  • Always keep your hands, arms, legs, and head inside the operator’s cab during operation.
  • Learn and use standard hand signals. Click here to access "Use of Hand Signals in Production Agriculture" for more information about hand signals.
  • Learn to operate the skid steer smoothly and to position yourself where you will not inadvertently bump levers.
  • Provide safety training to all skid steer operators at your farm or ranch. Require that they follow standard operating procedures.
  • Know the material you are loading, and remember that some objects can roll back into the operator’s cab.
  • To reduce the risk of a fall, always use the three-point method to enter and exit the skid steer. Two hands and one foot or one hand and two feet should always be in contact with the machine. Remember to use footpads and handholds and to keep the steps, pedals, and floor clean of slippery substances.
  • Never use drugs, alcohol, or medication while operating a skid steer as these can impair your ability to operate and react.
  • When transporting a skid steer, always use tie-down attachments to secure it to the trailer.
  • When finished with a skid steer, park it with the bucket or attachment lowered to the ground.
  • When possible, avoid operating a skid steer on slopes, ditches, or embankments.
  • Check your work areas for obstacles to smooth operation prior to beginning your job.
  • Look up and determine whether there are overhead utility wires near your work area.
  • If you are digging, know where underground utilities are located.
  • Avoid working near a pile of material, such as a large silage pile, or an embankment that is higher than the operator’s station. A collapse of the material could result in being buried.
  • Use counterweights as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure a balanced skid steer.
  • Make sure that the seat and floor of the operator's cab are clear of objects so that nothing can roll beneath foot controls and interfere with machine operation.
  • Decrease speed when driving over rough terrain.

For an overview of skid steer safety, watch the following video from Bobcat:

Video of Bobcat Skid-Steer Loader Safety  




Use the following format to cite this article:

Skid Steer Safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/64425/skid-steer-safety.  


Ebert, K., Ricketts, M., & Lind, S. (2006) Skid steer loader safety. Kansas State University Research and Extension. Retrieved from http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/MF2711.pdf.

Harshman, W., Yoder, A., Hilton, J., & Murphy, D. (2011) Skid steers. HOSTA Task Sheet 6.1. National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/sites/default/files/Version%203.%20January....

Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2015) Skid-steer safety for farm and landscape. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/skid-steer-safety-for-farm-and-landscape.

NIOSH Alert: Preventing injuries and deaths from skid-steer loaders. (2010). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2011-128/pdfs/2011-128.pdf.


Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Glen Blahey Canadian Agricultural Safety Association gblahey@casa.acsa.ca LaMar Grafft East Carolina University grafftl@ecu.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University (Has since retired) Aaron M. Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu  


National Land-Grant Research and Extension Agenda for Agricultural Safety and Health: National Agenda for Action

Mon, 04/09/2018 - 19:24

Use the following format to cite this article:

National land-grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health: National agenda for action. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63380/national-land-grant-research-and-ex....


The North Central Regional (NCR) 197 committee was established in 2000 by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to utilize the land-grant research and extension systems, in conjunction with agricultural producers, to reduce agricultural work-related property losses, injuries, illnesses, and deaths. The NCR 197 committee was reappointed and renamed the North Central Education/Extension Research Activity (NCERA) 197 in 2005 and reappointed again in 2011.

The original NCR 197 committee developed the National Land-Grant Research and Extension Agenda for Agricultural Safety and Health: National Agenda for Action, a prioritized list of 12 major issues in agricultural safety and health research and extension. This article outlines the 12 prioritized areas that the NCR 197 committee identified and the NCERA 197 committee continues to address:

  • Sensors and guarding systems
  • Operation of agricultural equipment on public roads
  • Agricultural confined spaces
  • Emerging technologies
  • Human factors in engineering and design
  • Management of agricultural emergencies
  • Livestock handling and housing systems
  • Public policy issues
  • Capital- and management-intensive operations vs. family-labor-intensive operations
  • Fire detection and suppression
  • Agricultural safety education and training
  • Special populations and enterprises
Sensors and Guarding Systems

The National Agenda for Action points out that the majority of agricultural-related injuries and fatalities are due to tractor overturns, incidents involving machinery and equipment, and exposure to toxic environments. Emerging sensor technology needs to be adapted to agricultural workplaces to identify, monitor, and provide warnings about hazards. Examples of sensors and guarding systems include:

  • enhanced rollover protective structures (ROPSs),
  • stability indicators,
  • lockout systems,
  • machine guarding,
  • environment monitors, and
  • global positioning systems (GPSs).
Operation of Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads

Public roads are one of the NCERA 197 committee's priorities because of the potential for deadly encounters between motor vehicles and agricultural equipment. Areas requiring continued research and education include:

  • high-speed agricultural equipment, 
  • lighting and marking of equipment,
  • rural road design,
  • specialized vehicles (such as horse-drawn buggies), and
  • hazardous material transportation.
Agricultural Confined Spaces

Confined spaces in production agriculture, such as manure storage areas and fuel storage areas, which continue to increase in scale and use, are accompanied by their own set of safety concerns. The National Agenda for Action calls for a focus on confined spaces that includes:

  • rescue procedures,
  • facility design,
  • fall protection systems,
  • safe entry procedures,
  • gas monitoring,
  • warning systems, and
  • ventilation systems.
Emerging Technologies

Changes in technology regarding production and efficiency are inevitable, but the potential hazards introduced by such changes need to be examined to develop the most useful and safest product designs. The National Agenda for Action recommends that attention should be given to technologies involving:

  • automatic pilot,
  • biosensors,
  • genetically modified organisms (GMOs),
  • high-speed equipment,
  • sludge application,
  • driverless tractors, and
  • GPSs.
Human Factors in Engineering and Design

An agricultural operation could not survive without its workforce, so the National Agenda for Action emphasizes the importance of examining workplace safety and working conditions. Potential research areas include, but are not limited to:

  • accommodations for disabilities,
  • gender issues,
  • effects of long-term exposure to vibration and weather,
  • musculoskeletal disorders, and
  • the prevention of secondary injuries.
Management of Agricultural Emergencies

Land-grant institutions continue to play a vital role in the development of resources and training for emergency preparedness for all types of emergencies in rural communities. The National Agenda for Action calls for continued attention to such topics as:

  • decontamination,
  • severe-weather preparedness,
  • responses to agroterrorism and chemical spills, and
  • rural fire prevention and response.
Livestock Handling and Housing Systems

Most agricultural operations have livestock, and the National Agenda for Action notes that focus must be maintained on production practices and their effects on both livestock and humans to reflect the growth in livestock processes and facilities. Potential areas of research include:

  • ventilation,
  • livestock-handling equipment,
  • sanitation,
  • zoonotic diseases, and
  • human-and-animal interactions.
Public Policy Issues

Farms and ranches are exempt from some worker safety and health regulations that apply to other workplaces. The NCERA 197 committee will consider how public policy issues relate to youth workers, uninsured workers, and agricultural operations that now employ larger numbers of people. Examples of public policy issues to be addressed include:

  • funding for safety initiatives,
  • liability issues,
  • rural-to-urban interfaces, and
  • workers' compensation.
Capital- and Management-Intensive Operations vs. Family-Labor-Intensive Operations

The differences between large corporate farms and family farms continue to pose challenges to research and delivery methods for agricultural safety and health information and training. The Cooperative Extension System continues to bring research-based information from the institution level to the producer level; however, the NCERA 197 committee asserts that delivery and dissemination models require further examination. Some areas that require focus include:

  • the design of small-scale equipment,
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and exemptions,
  • effects of safety management practices on profitability,
  • labor issues,
  • health care, and
  • disability benefits.
Fire Detection and Suppression

Fires can be devastating for agricultural operations because of the presence of livestock and costly equipment and the distance from local fire protection services. Early detection of fires and preparedness are vital to reducing the financial and human loss associated with a fire. The National Agenda for Action defines the following priority areas:

  • electrical standards,
  • extinguishing agents,
  • fire detection and monitoring, and
  • training of rural firefighters.
Agricultural Safety Education and Training

Land-grant institutions provide essential safety and health education through the county extension system. The research-based information and programs developed and evaluated at land-grant institutions are delivered through the Cooperative Extension System in effective formats to families, youths, and producers. Potential research topics identified by the National Agenda for Action include:

  • the development and testing of risk assessment tools,
  • evaluation of teaching methodologies (computer, Web-based, and so on),
  • the needs of special populations, and
  • evaluation of the effectiveness of safety and training curricula.
Special Populations and Enterprises

The farm or ranch workforce, including owners, operators, and workers, continues to diversify in terms of culture, ethnicity, age, gender, and level of education. Due to this diversity, a single approach to education is not feasible. The land-grant institutions continue to explore teaching-delivery systems that will address the needs of a diverse workforce. The NCERA 197 committee notes that further research is needed to: 

  • develop and test culturally sensitive safety and health resources, 
  • understand how gender affects safety, and 
  • address the issues of low literacy rates, secondary injuries, and injuries to youth.

Click HERE to view the National Agenda for Action for complete details about the 12 priority areas of the committee.

Click HERE to access Special Issue – November/December 2017, Resource engineering and technology for a sustainable world. Safety, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers magazine. Link: https://www.asabe.org/media/262303/resource24-06novdec2017.pdf


Use the following format to cite this article:

National land-grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health: National agenda for action. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63380/national-land-grant-research-and-ex....


National land-grant research and extension agenda for agricultural safety and health: National agenda for action. (2003) NCR 197 Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. Retrieved from http://articles.extension.org/sites/default/files/National%20Land%20Gran....

  Reviewed and Summarized by: Linda M. Fetzer, Pennsylvania State University – lmf8@psu.edu Dennis J. Murphy, Pennsylvania State University – djm13@psu.edu Michael Pate, Utah State University  michael.pate@usu.edu Aaron Yoder, University of Nebraska Medical Center - aaron.yoder@unmc.edu

Soil Health and Organic Farming Webinar Series

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 21:08

Please join the Organic Farming Research Foundation and eOrganic for a series of 9 webinars focused on the topics covered in their new Soil Health and Organic Farming educational guides: building organic matter, weed management, conservation tillage, cover crops, plant breeding and variety selection, water management and quality, nutrient management, and more! This series is recommended for farmers, extension agents, educators, agricultural professionals, and others interested in building soil health.

Author Mark Schonbeck of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming and OFRF Research Program Director Diana Jerkins will review the most recent research on soil health practices and explore how organic growers can build healthy soils on their operations. The webinars will provide practical guidelines for growers, in-depth analysis of research outcomes, and an opportunity to get your questions answered.

Register now at https://oregonstate.webex.com/oregonstate/onstage/g.php?PRID=8c89e175509c9d5e881644245dd5c9d2

May 9, 2018: Building Organic Matter for Healthy Soils: An Overview

We will discuss the attributes of healthy soil, the central role of organic matter, and how to monitor and enhance soil health in organic production. The presentation will outline key organic practices for building soil organic matter and optimizing soil functions in relation to fertility, crop yield, and resource conservation.

June 13, 2018: Weed Management: An Ecological Approach

This webinar will focus on integrated organic weed management tools and practices that give crops the edge over weeds, build soil health, and reduce the need for soil disturbance.

September 19, 2018: Practical Conservation Tillage

This webinar includes the impacts of tillage on soil health, including practical, soil-friendly tillage practices for organic systems. We will discuss several newer tillage tools and approaches that reduce adverse impacts on soil life and soil structure.

October 17, 2018: Cover Crops: Selection and Management

This webinar will focus on selecting the best cover crops, mixes, and management methods for soil health, including crop rotations and cropping system biodiversity.

November 14, 2018: Plant Genetics: Plant Breeding and Variety Selection

This webinar will cover plant breeding and variety selection for performance in sustainable organic systems, including nutrient and moisture use efficiency, competitiveness toward weeds, and enhanced interactions with beneficial soil biota. We will also discuss heritable traits that could directly benefit soil biology and soil health.

January 9, 2019: Water Management and Water Quality

This webinar will focus on the role of soil health and organic soil management in water conservation and water quality.

February 20, 2019: Nutrient Management for Crops, Soil and the Environment

This webinar includes a discussion of the role of soil health and the soil food web, including practical guidelines for optimizing crop nutrition, minimizing adverse environmental impacts of organic fertility inputs, and adapting soil test-based nutrient recommendations (especially N) for organic systems.

March 20, 2019: Organic Practices for Climate Mitigation, Adaptation, and Carbon Sequestration

In this webinar, we will discuss the capacity of sustainable organic systems and practices to sequester soil carbon, minimize nitrous oxide and methane emissions during crop and livestock production, and enhance agricultural resilience to weather extremes. The presentation will include practical guidelines for optimizing the organic farm’s “carbon footprint” and adaptability to climate disruptions already underway.

May 22, 2019: Understanding and Managing Soil Biology for Soil Health and Crop Production

This webinar will examine the functions of the soil food web and key components thereof in promoting soil health and fertility and sustainable organic crop production. Research-based guidance on organic practices and NOP-approved inputs for improved soil food web function will be discussed.

Thank you to the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation for supporting this project.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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April 2018

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 19:34
April 11 Webinar: Variety Trials:Trial Evaluation, Analysis and Interpreting Results

The webinar on Conducting On-Farm Variety Trials to Reduce Risk for Organic and Specialty Crop Producers: Trial Evaluation, Analysis and Interpreting Results is the second webinar a 2-part series on conducting variety trials to reduce risk for organic and specialty crop producers. Presenters are Julie Dawson of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance. The first webinar was recorded and is available here. These webinars are part of an online variety trial toolkit created by the Organic Seed Alliance and their collaborators. Also included in the toolkit are a guide to on farm variety trials and a free online variety trial tool. Find the toolkit here. Please note, to attend this free webinar, you must register here in Webex, since we have switched programs and the older Gotowebinar link will not work!

All recent eOrganic webinars and broadcast recordings available now on YouTube

Recordings are now available from the entire Fall-Spring eOrganic webinar season including all the Organic Seed Growers Conference recordings, and the webinars on tomato foliar pathogens, abrasive weeding, tools for farm biodiversity and more. Find them all at https://www.youtube.com/user/eOrganic.

April 4 at 11:59 Eastern Time: Spring NOSB meeting comments deadline

If you would like to submit comments for the Spring NOSB meeting or sign up for oral comments at their webinars or in person, the deadline is today at 11:59 PM Eastern Time.The in-person meeting takes place on April 25-27, and the two webinars take place on April 17 and 19.  The many issues, proposals and substances they will be discussing are contained in their meeting materials here. Find out more details about the meeting and webinars here, and submit written comments by tonight April 4 at 11:59 Eastern here.

NSAC Update on Food Safety Modernization Act

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition just published a helpful blog post which summarizes new information published by the FDA about how farms and processors can determine whether they qualify for various exemptions from the Food Safety Modernization Act Rules. Exemptions are determined by sales thresholds based on an average of the past 3 years' sales and adjusted for inflation. Find out more about how this works and which exemptions your farm may qualify for at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fsma-exemptions-update/

Seed Internship Program Accepting Applications

Are you an experienced seed grower seeking interns for your farm? Or are you an individual looking for a farm internship that would teach you how to grow seed? Then check out the Seed Internship Program, co-hosted by the Organic Seed Alliance and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA). The program matches host farms that produce seed with individuals interested in a farm internship that teaches these skills. The program also provides host farms seed production curriculum to support their training efforts. Click here to learn more and register as a host farm or interested intern.

Learn How to Grow Seed in California on April 7th

Join OSA’s Southern California Seed Hub, San Diego Seed Company, and Bancroft Center for Sustainability for a one-day training on incorporating organic seed production into your diversified farm plan. The workshop will be held on Saturday, April 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Steve Peters of OSA and Brijette Pena of the San Diego Seed Company will provide hands-on instruction to help you grow organic seed for the commercial market. This training will help participants understand seed production biology; on-farm breeding; seed harvesting and cleaning; and how to conduct variety trials and choose seed crops for a specific system and climate. Participants will also learn about the economics of seed production and how to identify markets. Learn more and register here.

NOVIC and CIOA Projects work with the University of Hawaii to Teach Plant Breeding

Two NIFA-OREI funded organic plant breeding projects: the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) and the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project recently joined tropical plant breeders at the University of Hawaii to teach a two-day workshop on organic plant breeding for Hawaiian organic farmers. The event was co-hosted by the University of Hawaii’s Go-farm Hawaii program – an applied apprentice program that trains beginning farmers. Go-farm Hawaii trainer Jay Bost led the workshop, which included both a classroom and field component with trials of several NOVIC, CIOA and Hawaiian tropical crops. Read more about this event and view pictures here.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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The Importance of Conservation in Animal Agriculture

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 21:57
Module Home | Importance of Conservation (you are here) | Conservation Practices in Animal Ag

This page focuses largely on USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) practice standards and how NRCS works with farmers by providing technical and financial assistance. The next section in this module discusses many of the practices relevant to animal agriculture in greater detail.


Why is conservation important in animal agriculture?

Conservation is key for farmers interested in protecting natural resources while producing food, fuel, and fiber from working lands. There are a variety of conservation practices that can be voluntarily implemented to protect natural resources for surrounding ecosystems, community, and future generations. Conservation practices can have both on-farm and off-farm benefits and can be customized to the unique location, soils, and needs of each farm. Conservation practices are site-specific, not one-size-fits-all. They must be planned and installed with the characteristics of the individual site in mind.

Many conservation practices are voluntary and incentivized through technical and financial assistance. If a farm is subject to regulatory oversight, NRCS practice standards may not meet the requirements of state or federal regulations or permits. Producers should double-check those requirements rather than assuming that they will suffice.

Photo 1. Animal agriculture operations are very different from farm to farm.

Because manure is one of the largest by-products of animal feeding operations, conservation practices are often designed to increase the farmer’s ability to manage manure as a beneficial resource and reduce risk associated with manure application. Nutrients (whether from manure or from inorganic fertilizer) not taken up by crops can run off from fields or leach to groundwater through rain events or irrigation.

Conservation practices can have beneficial impacts on water quality, wildlife habitat, and air quality. Adopting practices that result in manure applications that are well-timed, at agronomic rates, and away from sensitive locations can help farmers make significant positive contributions to water quality. Conservation practices are important in grazing operations to improve soil and vegetation health and to protect water quality and wildlife habitat. For example, restricting livestock access to a stream or creek reduces the chance the animals will deposit manure or urine in the water, break down stream banks and beds, and/or stir up sediment. Rotational grazing can provide important rest and recovery time for vegetation and allow wildlife cover for nesting or raising their young.

Agencies Involved in Implementing Conservation on Farms

There are several public agencies that cooperate to encourage the use of conservation practices on farms:

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Photo 2. A local USDA Service Center

USDA NRCS was established in 1935 to work in close partnerships with farmers and ranchers, local and state governments, and other federal agencies to maintain healthy and productive working landscapes on a voluntary, non-regulatory basis. Originally known as the “Soil Conservation Service,” the name was changed to NRCS in 1994 to better reflect the broad scope of the agency’s mission. Learn more about the history of NRCS.

The National Office is located in Washington, DC, and is where national policy, procedures, and conservation practice standards are developed. State offices adopt these standards, either directly, or with changes that make the standards more stringent. The local or district office (Photo 2) works directly with farmers and ranchers to assist them in protecting natural resources by implementing conservation practices on working land. They provide technical and sometimes financial assistance for conservation practices. Learn more about how NRCS is organized.

Video: How to receive conservation assistance from NRCS

Financial assistance for USDA NRCS conservation practices comes from the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that is developed about every 5 years by Congress. The Farm Bill is traditionally made up of several programs in the areas of food and nutrition assistance, marketing, commodity support, research, conservation, and more. The conservation programs authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill include:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA)

Local NRCS offices will help farmers determine if their conservation needs are a fit for financial assistance. Factors that they will consider include:

  • Whether the farm is in a watershed or area designated with a high need for conservation practices
  • Past efforts of the farmer
  • Legislative priorities, such as bioenergy
  • The need to encourage beginning, veteran, and minority farmers

More information on financial assistance is available below (How Do Farmers Access Technical or Financial Assistance for Conservation?)

Conservation Districts

Photo 3. This local conservation district office is located in the same building as the local USDA service center.

Conservation districts are local governmental units responsible for protecting and conserving natural resources in their assigned geographic area. They are governed by a locally-elected board. In some states, they may have a different name, such as soil and water conservation district or natural resource conservation district. There are over 3,000 conservation districts, nationwide.

Conservation districts often partner with NRCS (Photo 3) to work with local farmers, ranchers, and other landowners to implement conservation practices that help address issues of local importance. By working together, NRCS and the districts can more efficiently address conservation needs.

US Environmental Protection Agency

EPA’s role in conservation is primarily regulatory but also includes non-regulatory, voluntary, and incentive-based programs such as the Clean Water Act Section 319 funding. This program provides grants to states and tribes to reduce nonpoint source runoff.

EPA also develops partnerships with industry. One such example is the EPA AgSTAR program, which works with farmers on a voluntary basis to encourage the use of anaerobic digesters for manure treatment and renewable energy generation.

Recommended resource: EPA National Agriculture Center includes information on regulations, compliance assistance, and partnerships.

State Environmental/Water Quality Agencies

Photo 4. State environmental agencies are generally tasked with enforcing the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Many Clean Water Act and other programs that originate with federal statutes are implemented by State, Tribal, and Territorial environmental agencies. Those programs generally work directly with local partners and landowners to develop watershed plans and implement nonpoint source control measures. Those partners often include Conservation Districts for agricultural projects and often utilize resources from multiple agencies and organizations, including USDA. Under Section 319 of the CWA, states, territories, and tribes receive grant money that supports a wide variety of activities to control nonpoint source pollution, including technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, demonstration projects, and monitoring to assess the success of nonpoint source implementation projects.

Recommended Resource: Nonpoint Source Success Stories features stories about nonpoint source impairments with documented water quality improvements attributable to restoration efforts.

State Agricultural Departments

For the most part State agricultural Departments do not play a direct regulatory role in enforcing the Clean Water Act or Clean Air Act. One major area where state agriculture departments are involved in the implementation of conservation practices are in the case of animal mortality, both routine and catastrophic. Most states have regulations that specify appropriate methods for carcass disposal. State agriculture departments may also develop programs that encourage the use of conservation practices through cost-share, educational outreach, or other methods.

NRCS Conservation Practice Standards

There are over 160 conservation practices for which national standards have been developed. Any that are adopted by a state can be implemented in that state to assist farmers and ranchers with their environmental stewardship efforts. Farmers and ranchers should use the conservation practice adopted by the state, rather than the national standard.

To find your state’s approved practice standards, contact your local NRCS office for assistance.

Photo 5. Many different conservation practices are used on animal agriculture operations.

What are conservation practice standards?

Photo 6. A screenshot of the Anaerobic Digester conservation practice standard. Click here to download the full-size PDF version.

A conservation practice is defined as: “A specific treatment, such as a structural or vegetative measure, or management techniques, commonly used to meet specific needs in planning and implementing conservation, for which standards and specifications have been developed.”

NRCS conservation practice standards provide guidance for applying conservation practices and set the minimum level for acceptable application of the technology. Each standard is given a number. For example, the standard for “Anaerobic Digester” is #366. Practice standards include information (Photo 6), such as:

  • Purpose: The conservation goal achieved with this practice
  • Where it applies: The type of farm, land use, or situation where the practice is appropriate
  • Criteria: Location, safety considerations, permits needed, management, related conservation practices, and other important considerations

Three categories of conservation practices that apply to animal agriculture include:

  • Manure Management
  • Land and Pasture Management
  • Mortality (Dead Animal) Management

Specific practices and details about each practice are included in the next section, Conservation Practices in Animal Agriculture.

How are standards for practices developed/updated?

Practice standards may be newly identified or change over time based on new science and technology. They are periodically reviewed and updated, usually every 5 years. Any new or updated practice standard is reviewed by technical experts in pertinent fields and is available for review and comment by the public before it is adopted.

NRCS publishes national conservation practice standards in its National Handbook of Conservation Practices (NHCP). If a practice is adopted by a state, the state has some latitude to develop a more stringent or specific version that fits typical conditions or situations in that state.

Recommended Resource: The first 12-13 minutes of the video "Use of NRCS Conservation Practice Standards and Specifications" describes the process of how a new standard may be identified as well as the process used to validate it and the sections included in a standard. It is presented for NRCS staff, but is useful for others that work with farmers who want more background on how a practice standard is developed and what is required to be in a standard.

What is conservation planning?

Photo 7. Conservation planning needs to consider individual farm goals and current conditions.

A conservation plan is a record of the conservation practices implemented on a farm or ranch. It may include sub-plans such as one for grazing management, comprehensive nutrient management, wildlife management, or others.

Conservation planning starts with a farmer or rancher recognizing a problem area or wanting to improve some aspect of the farm or ranch. The next step is to contact NRCS. NRCS helps the farmer or rancher review and analyze the current conditions for possible solutions. Depending on the preferences of the client, certain practices may be selected to include in the conservation plan.

Conservation plans are voluntary and are developed by NRCS at no cost.

How do farmers access technical or financial assistance for conservation?

Contact your local NRCS office to access technical assistance in implementing conservation practices. If conservation practices are eligible for financial assistance (cost-share), farmers complete and submit an application. If approved for cost-share, a contract is developed that specifies what will be done, when it will be done, and how much assistance will be provided.

A look at specific practices that can apply to animal agriculture operations is discussed in the next section, Conservation Practices in Animal Agriculture

<=Previous: (Home) Animal Ag, Manure, and Water Quality | Next: Conservation Practices in Animal Ag => Acknowledgements These materials were developed by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC) with funding from the USDA.Natural Resources Conservation Service through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All images on this page, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA NRCS. For questions on this material, contact Jill Heemstra, jheemstra@unl.edu.  

Food Safety / HACCP

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 17:08

What's on this page?

HACCP stands for "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point." A hazard analysis is the process used to determine the food safety hazards reasonably likely to occur in the production process. This also identifies the preventive measures, or "critical control points," that the establishment can use to control those hazards.

Hazards are grouped into three categories:

  1. physical - e.g., metal, glass, bone fragments 
  2. chemical - e.g., detergents, nitrite when used in excess
  3. biological - e.g., pathogens

On this page, you'll find resources for helping you get started with your HACCP plan: what is HACCP, where to go for help, model plans, a crash course in microbiology, and more. 

Q: I'm a processor, not a microbiologist. What do I need to know?

A: Never fear, we've got you covered: Microbiology for Meat Processors

Q: What is HACCP? How do I get started? 

Q: Where can I go for help with my HACCP plan?  Are there any classes I can take? 

Q: Are there any sample HACCP plans I can see?

Q: What about supporting documentation for my HACCP plan?  Where can I find that? 

Q: What is a Food Defense Plan?  Do I need one of those too? 

What is a HACCP Plan?

HACCP is a process control system.  You identify where hazards might occur (the HA or "hazard analysis" of HACCP) and then put steps into place that prevent that hazard from occurring (the CCP or "critical control points" of HACCP).  A HACCP Plan is the document that contains these hazards and critical control steps.  HACCP is based on 7 principles:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis: what are the steps I am taking to make my product and where might a hazard (physical, chemical or biological) be introduced?
  2. Identify the Critical Control Points: where in my process can I insert preventative measures (such as time, temperature, pH, salt, etc.) to control for hazards?
  3. Establish Critical Limits: what are my criteria for each critical control point: e.g. a min. and max temperature. 
  4. Establish Monitoring Procedures: determine what you will measure and how you will measure it.  Keep records!  Using temperature again as an example,   you could use a digital thermometer to continuously monitor temperature and alert you when a cooler or smoker is out of your set temperature range. 
  5. Establish Corrective Actions: what will you do if a critical limit is not met?  How will you ensure that product that doesn't meet your critical limits isn't sold?  You must also include how you'll evaluate the process to determine why the critical limit wasn't reached and how you'll work to address this problem in the future.   
  6. Establish Recordkeeping Procedures: what kind of records will you need to keep to prove to regulatory agencies that critical limits have been met?
  7. Establish Verification Procedures: Your HACCP plan is a living document.  You'll continually assure that it is effective, that the end product is meeting your specifications and that the controls are working as planned.  Develop plans to conduct this ongoing verification.  

​adapted from 22000 Tools, www.22000-tools.com/what-is-haccp.html

Think about writing a HACCP plan for making a peanut butter & jelly sandwich: what are some of the "hazards" that could occur?  How would you control for these hazards? What are your critical limits and monitoring procedures? etc., etc.  

How do I write one?

HACCP can be intimidating, but once you get started you'll likely find that it is really all about documenting things you are already doing.  The first step to creating a HACCP plan is attending a HACCP workshop. This will not only train you in HACCP, but it will also provide you with a HACCP certificate. At least one person in every plant must be HACCP certified in order to sign the HACCP plan and any revisions.

Next, we suggest downloading FSIS's "Guidebook for the Preparation of HACCP Plans" (available here).  This pdf will guide you, step-by-step, in writing your HACCP plan.

Thinking about hiring a consultant?  Some good advice from another processor: 

"My husband and I opened our USDA slaughterhouse in October of 2013.  In the end we wrote our own HACCP plan and it has been well worth it for us.  We both took the HACCP training class, which was extremely helpful.  Writing the HACCP was at times very overwhelming and it took many months.  Most of my summer of 2013 was spent putting together our HACCP.  

There was moments of doubt.  After we had drafted the HACCP plans, but prior to any pre-requisite programs, we hired a consultant to help us.  What we found was that our HACCP plan that we understood became too confusing and because we were no longer writing it, it was hard to see it as a whole.  We decided to take the project back over.  When we opened in October, our written HACCP plan was not perfect.  In fact we had to make changes to the program, but having to make those changes was easy because we wrote the program and we understood it.  Additionally, my husband and I are the HACCP team, and one of us if not both of us, are available to inspectors any time we are operating.  Therefore any questions in regards to HACCP are taken care of immediately, eliminating the need to contact the person who wrote the HACCP to explain it. 

I never look at our HACCP as finalized.  It is a working document that needs to change with your processes or regulations.  Every part of it is connected and that is the overwhelming challenge when putting it together. We have found great resources from American Association of Meat Processors.  I have posted many questions on this site that have aided in writing our HACCP." 


HACCP in an Hour: Archived NMPAN Webinar

On this webinar from May 2014, you’ll learn the ABCs of HACCP — vocabulary and basic concepts — from an experienced HACCP instructor, Jonathan Campbell from Penn State University. If you’re a farmer or rancher who brings animals to an inspected processor, if you’re thinking you might want to get into the processing business, or if you just want to know what the heck HACCP actually is, this webinar is for you.

Jonathan Campbell is Meat Science Extension Specialist at Penn State University and a member of NMPAN’s Advisory Board.  Click here to view the webinar. 


Help with your HACCP plan is available in your state!  Check here to see a list of HACCP Contacts and Coordinators by state

HACCP Resources

These resources, from the federal government and others, provide information on HACCP requirements, testing, model plans, and more. 

HACCP Workshops 

HACCP workshops are regularly conducted around the country, often at land grant universities. Each State is assigned a HACCP Coordinator to assist plants with the development of HACCP Program. State HACCP Coordinators will typically know when and where HACCP workshops take place in your state. The Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network's State Affiliates may also be able to help you with your HACCP plan and/or finding a HACCP workshop in your area. 

You may also hire an outside consultant to develop your HACCP plan (see above for advice on this). Questions about the use of consultants may be answered by an FSIS representative.

Sample HACCP Plans

USDA FSIS is revising their HACCP guidebook and model plans. They expect them to be published by the end of 2018. In the meantime, check out the UW-Madison resources below.

The Center for Meat Process Validation at UW-Madison has developed several useful model HACCP plans.  To download a model HACCP plan from this site, click here, decide which type of processing will be done (Slaughter, Raw-Not Ground, Etc.), and follow the steps accordingly.

In addition, the Open Source Food Safety project has several model meat HACCP plans available for downloading. These include Fully-Cooked Shelf Stable Products, Not Cooked Shelf Stable Salami, Not Cooked Shelf Stable Whole Muscle, Reduced Oxygen Packaging, and Sous Vide. They can be found here.

Supporting Documentation Materials for HACCP Decisions

This document provides a very comprehensive listing of the scientific and technical resources processors can cite in their HACCP plans as justifications for the hazards identified in their hazard analysis and the critical control points chosen to control hazards.

Developing a Food Defense Plan for Meat and Poultry Slaughter and Processing Plants

A step-by-step guide to developing a Food Defense Plan by USDA FSIS.


Conservation Practices and Animal Agriculture

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 13:41
Module Home | Importance of Conservation | Conservation Practices in Animal Ag (you are here)

Many conservation practices are available for animal agriculture producers interested in protecting air and water quality, improving soil health or wildlife habitat, and increasing the productivity of animals, pastures, and crops. This module will especially focus on conservation practices impacting water quality with the goal of keeping clean water clean.

Farmers and ranchers can implement conservation practices on their own. They can also seek technical or financial assistance through agencies such as a local Conservation District or USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

NRCS has developed approximately 160 conservation practice standards at the national level. States have the option of adopting a standard and using the same or more stringent criteria. Farmers should use state-adopted standards whenever available. To find out whether your state has adopted a certain standard, contact your local NRCS office.

Conservation practices relevant to water quality and animal agriculture can be divided into three categories. Clicking the link will take you to a virtual tour website that describes each practice and includes several photos.


Land & Pasture Management


Conservation Practices Included In Each Virtual Tour Manure Management
  • Anaerobic Digester (366)
  • Composting Facility (317)
  • Dust Control from Animal Activity on Open Lot Surfaces (Ac.) (375)
  • Feed Management (592)
  • Nutrient Management (590)
  • Roofs and Covers (367)
  • Vegetated Treatment Area (635)
  • Waste Facility Closure (360)
  • Waste Recycling (633)
  • Waste Separation Facility (632)
  • Waste Storage Facility (313)
  • Waste Transfer (634)
  • Waste Treatment (629)
  • Waste Treatment Lagoon (359)
Land & Pasture Management
  • Access Control (472)
  • Cover Crop (340)
  • Critical Area Planting (342)
  • Denitrifying Bioreactor (605)
  • Diversion (362)
  • Fence (382)
  • Filter Strip (393)
  • Grassed Waterway (412)
  • Heavy Use Protection Area (561)
  • Livestock Shelter Structure (576)
  • Prescribed Grazing (528)
  • Riparian Forest Buffer (391)
  • Riparian Herbaceous Cover (390)
  • Saturated Buffer (604)
  • Streambank & Shoreline Protection (580)
  • Stream Crossing (578)
  • Watering Facility (614)
Mortality Management
  • Animal Mortality Facility (316)
  • Emergency Animal Mortality Management (368)
Applying Conservation Practices to Individual Farms

Conservation practices should be implemented on an individual farm basis to ensure they are addressing a natural resource concern and will be effective in the particular farm setting.

Some questions to ask when evaluating whether a conservation practice will be beneficial for an animal agriculture operation:

  • Is the farm a confinement facility or are animals on pasture (or both)?
  • Are confined animals kept under a roof or open lots (or both)?
  • Where are pastured animals housed or fed in the winter?
  • Does the operation include crop land?
  • Are there waterbodies such as streams or ponds on the facility or crop land?
  • How does the farm store or handle manure; as a solid or slurry/liquid?
  • How much manure does the farm produce and where is it currently stored?
  • Are there neighbors nearby? How many and where?
  • Are there environmentally sensitive features on or near the facility? Wells, sinkholes, public parks or public use areas, wildlife, impaired waterbody, or similar features should all be considered.
  • What are the goals of the farmer or rancher? What is important to them and what do they have interest and capacity to implement and manage?

For example, consider these fictional farms. Both have 200 dairy cows and are interested in developing a manure management system. They are both in the same state with similar soil types.

Farm 1: There is a child in college interested in returning to help manage the farm, so future expansion is a strong possibility. The farm has sufficient cropland to use the manure they currently produce as crop fertilizer.

Farm 2: This farm is considering organic production. They do not have much cropland and must export most of their manure to neighboring crop farmers. This farm also has connections to organic crop farmers as well as the nursery and landscape industry.

While both farms have similar characteristics, they have very different goals. Their conservation plans could be very different. Farm 1 is likely to consider an earthen or concrete slurry manure storage structure with the biggest question being how large to make the structure considering a possible expansion in the near future. They are likely to develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) to ensure the cropland base continues to support any future expansion.

Farm 2 may look at manure collection and storage very differently. The cattle may have access to open lots (manure is handled as a solid) or grazing paddocks. Given the off-farm connections and lack of crop land, composting or other ways to generate value-added products may be an option. Marketing manure or exporting it off-farm will be important to this farm’s manure management plans.

Both farms intend to protect natural resources but need to implement different practices to reach their goals.

<=Previous: Importance of Conservation | Next: (Home) Animal Ag, Manure, and Stewardship => Acknowledgements These materials were developed by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC) with funding from the USDA.Natural Resources Conservation Service through an interagency agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. All images on this page, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA NRCS. For questions on this material, contact Jill Heemstra, jheemstra@unl.edu.


Monthly Investment Message: March 2018

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 18:25

Barbara O’Neill, Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management

Rutgers Cooperative Extension


March 2018

Factors That Promote Financial Success

During the last year, I had the opportunity to hear several well-known personal finance speakers talk about the characteristics and practices of financially successful people. Audiences are usually very interested in this topic because it provides a motivational roadmap and specific tips to follow.


At the 2017 Financial Planning Association (FPA) conference, the final general session speaker was financial author and television personality, Jean Chatzky. Her topic was “What the World’s Wealthiest, Most Successful People Do Differently.” Below is a description of six key success factors that were described in her presentation:


Optimism/Happiness- People who score “8” on 1 to 10 scale have greater problem-solving ability, longer lifespans, and increased success. Chatzky advised “prioritize doing things instead of acquiring things.”

Resilience- People are not born with resilience. Chatzky advised attendees to “Control the things that you can control” and “take action when you feel stuck.”

Connectedness- Chatzky advised attendees to build their “social capital” by sharing information, resources, and contacts. In addition, strong relationships with others need to be built in person and not just online.

Passion-People with passion view work as a calling, “want things more,” and work hard to achieve them. When people work hard, they often earn a higher income and have more money to achieve their goals.

Good Financial Habits- An example is habitual savings. Automatic savings deposits make it easier to delay gratification and save for your “future self”; i.e. the person that you will be 20 to 50 years from now. Our future selves are strangers to us today.

Gratitude-Grateful people five back to individuals, organizations, and communities. They are also less likely to be affected by depression. The antidote to materialism is charity inspired by gratitude.

At the 2017 annual conference of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), Sarah Newcomb, a behavioral economist at Morningstar, noted that people who are future-minded and think ahead have more savings than those who do not. In addition, two simple areas of inquiry can accurately gauge the status of a person’s financial health:

  • How far in advance do you make plans?
  • How much control do you feel that you have over events that happen in your life?

People who focus on the future and feel that they create their own financial destiny tend to save more than others for retirement and other financial goals. When people focus on the future, they tend to be less impulsive (e.g., spending habits), regardless of their level of financial literacy. Newcomb found that the strongest predictor of good financial decisions is not financial literacy but, rather, a focus on the future. High levels of impulsiveness and materialism, on the other hand, were associated with poor financial decision-making.


In addition, Newcomb’s research found that “power is happiness.” Empowered people are financially happier than others. Conversely, people who don’t feel in control of their personal finances have been found to exhibit negative emotions about their financial status even up to those earning a six-figure income.


Newcomb’s research, which is summarized in her book, Loaded, has found that, the farther away something is in the future, the less people care about it. The secret to fostering future-mindedness is to trick your brain to think that “the far away is close.” When this happens, people care more about the future because the “Here and Now” is clear and intense while the “There and Later” is vague, abstract, and unemotional.


Check out our Archived Monthly Investing Messages

Island Grown Farmers Cooperative (updated 3/2018)

Thu, 03/29/2018 - 21:45

Updated 3.29.2018
The Island Grown Farmer Cooperative (IGFC) mobile processing unit (MPU) was the first USDA-inspected mobile slaughter facility for red meat in the U.S. Further processing is done at a permanent plant in Bow, WA, also USDA-inspected.

Basic information

Capacity per day: MPU: about 9-10 head beef (or 35lamb or 15 pigs). This takes 2 butchers 8 hours, plus 2 hours drive time. The MPU can do this only 4 days/week, because of limited staff and the need to bring meat back to the processing plant and do truck/trailer cleaning/maintenance.

Hours/day of operation: up to 8 under inspection, extra for set-up & clean-up.

Weeks/year: 52, at 3-4 days/week. The processing plant operates 5 days/wk and can process 2500 lbs per day.

Species: all four legs

Services: slaughter & process; raw sausage; case-ready, retail packaging

Square feet: trailer is 34’ long. Plant is 3000 sf.

#/type of employees: 6 employees (from manager to part-time cleaning staff)

Annual sales revenues: $500,000 (all services, not including the value of meat processed).

Price of services: Slaughter: $40 lamb or goat, $55 pig, $105 steer. In order to have the unit come to their farm, producers have to have a minimum slaughter amount of $450. Cutting (to case ready) = $1.05/lb lamb, $0.82/lb steer, $0.6071 pig (plus 10% price increase, spring ’08). Sausage = $1.25/lb for links. (For farmers not in the co-op, prices are slightly higher.)

Operational costs: ~$294,500/yr. Fee structure is designed to break even or be slightly profitable. The trailer gets ~10 miles/gallon.

Retail on-site: Yes, small, selling co-op members’ meat (members get revenue). Open 2 days/wk, earns $9000/mo.

Wholesale: no

Inspection: USDA inspected

Certified organic: Yes

Certification agency: Washington Dept of Agriculture

Custom work: Yes but rarely, because too busy with inspected work.

Source verification on label: No, too much hassle. Appropriate when customers can’t meet producers directly. Some members have their own labels.



The market opportunity

“No one had a chance to try marketing before we had the processing – and now it’s taking off.”


Basic history/development

In 1996, a group of livestock farmers in San Juan County, Washington state, started talking with each other and the county extension service about how to make local meat production possible. The farmers lacked access to USDA slaughter and processing – they couldn’t transport their animals to facilities on the mainland. When the idea of a mobile slaughter unit came up, the farmers and the county extension agent approached the Lopez Community Land Trust, a community land trust focused on affordable housing and sustainable rural development, to be the host organization for the project. LCLT hired Bruce Dunlop to design and build the MPU.

The MPU is operated by the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative. The Co-op purchased it from LCLT, which is no longer actively involved in the business. IGFC formed specifically for this purpose of managing the mobile unit. It is a service co-op and does not have its own brand. There is a small retail operation at the fixed facility that is open two days per week, but most members market their products separately. In 2011, co-op membership reached 65 members. The general manager estimates that 95% of the co-op's members use the co-op at least once a year and most use it more than once per year.The IGFC board, which meets monthly, makes all the basic business decisions. The head butcher now manages the MPU and the plant.  Co-op member farms are all within 100 miles of each other (1-2 hours drive), which is the largest area the MPU can serve efficiently.

The MPU received its grant of inspection and began operating in 2002.

The Wall Street Journal published a story about creation of this mobile processing unit on October 6th, 2008. The article includes several photos and a video.


Funding sources

The total cost for the project was $150,000 in 2000. A new trailer in 2008 with the same capacity costs $170,000.
Trailer $60,000
Equipment & Installation $27,000
Truck $18,000
Design/ Project Mgmt. $25,000
Testing $15,000
Outreach $ 5,000

The MPU was paid for with grants, and private donations from the farmers and other individuals in the community, so neither IGFC nor LCLT had to take on initial debt. However, their experience suggests that an MPU could pay for itself, even with a loan to pay back.

USDA grants (obtained by LCLT), were from CREES (Cooperative Research Education and Extension Service), Rural Development, and Rural Business Opportunity programs, and paid for design, development, project management, and testing. A $20,000 grant from the Forest Service Community Development Program, for timber-impacted communities, paid for the truck and refrigeration equipment. The remaining $80-90,000 came from private, individual donors who wanted to support local agriculture.

Once the MPU was built, they didn’t need additional outside funding. They bootstrapped, with revenues (fee for service) and an initial capital charge of $600 from each of the 30 starting members. They set their rates so that they were able to break even in the first year.

The cut and wrap facility is on the mainland, in Bow. IGFC rents the building but owns much of the equipment, purchased from the landlord (assessed members an equity retain on each slaughter and paid it off in 4 years).

No bank financing as yet. To expand operations, they considered a bank loan. But members chose to loan IGFC the money themselves, at a slightly lower interest rate. This meant less paperwork – and a real vote of confidence in IGFC and the MPU.

Business plan

The initial business and operating plans were written by Bruce Dunlop for LCLT, before the cooperative was formed. As the business has changed and evolved, subsequent planning has been done by IGFC board members with business experience. The actual business turned out somewhat differently (Business planning for product sales is done at the member level, not by the co-op.)

Because they didn’t have to service any debt from MPU construction, business planning was fairly simple: estimate how many animals they’d handle and set appropriate rates. Members had to decide how much to charge themselves. (The MPU is available to non-members, depending on schedule, but at slightly higher rates.) Their original rates, based on an industry standard, were too low: after six months, they were losing money, so they raised rates. They’ve had to do so a couple of times since; a 10% hike in spring 2008 will cover rising fuel costs and health insurance/raises for employees.

“We took a big risk. The whole thing was built on faith that the animals would come.” Would they have enough business? “If you have enough capital, you can lose money in the first year. We had to break even because we didn’t have money to lose.” The gamble paid off: the MPU broke even in the first year.

Central to their success is this fact: none of these farmers has any other options for slaughter/processing, so they have to make this one work and keep it afloat.

Deciphering regulations and complying

The MPU is USDA inspected. To understand the USDA regulations, two IGFC members took a HACCP class (required). They wrote their first plan, based on the generic HACCP plan and guidelines on the USDA website. This was in 2001, when HACCP was first applied to small plants. They reviewed it with their HACCP class trainer and then presented it to USDA.

The HACCP plan and operating procedures are separate documents. You have to be careful about what goes in which. IGFC has adjusted this over the years, with guidance from their USDA inspectors. USDA requires specific “Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures” (SSOPs), including pest control and water supply testing. For the most part, USDA requires you to have a plan and follow it.

The HACCP coordinator is a critical job. HACCP is, in theory, straightforward. In practice, every inspector has his own interpretation. The coordinator must be able to work with the inspectors to craft the plan and then change it when it makes sense and to comply with changes in the regulations. The USDA can’t tell a processor how to write the plan. However, inspectors often have helpful recommendations. In IGFC’s experience, most inspectors are reasonable and willing to work with a processor to create a good, workable plan.

Apart from USDA regulatory requirements, IGFC’s processing operations required no other permits. The cut and wrap facility in Bow already had a conditional use permit for meat cutting. (A new or expanded facility would require a building permit.)

The MPU required no county permits, because it isn’t a building, so the county had no jurisdiction. Rinse water and offal are composted on-farm, but the amounts are small, and the county health department hasn’t objected. The MPU may visit each farm ten times a year, using 300 gallons each time: 3000 gallons per year is minimal for land application. As for offal, there are plenty of studies showing on-farm composting is safe (see, e.g. Washington State Department of Ecology guidelines: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/biblio/0507034.html).

Plant design

Bruce worked with Featherlite, a trailer company, to design the MPU. This was the first USDA-inspected mobile slaughter facility, so they had to start from scratch.

MPU Interior


The photo on the left shows the MPU skinning and evisceration area as seen from rear of trailer. The photo on the right shows the carcass cooler behind the skinning area. Inedible offal and blood from livestock are composted at the respective farms.


Big Glitches and how they were solved

Operations have been relatively smooth from the beginning.


Required equipment

The unit is equipped with a diesel generator, water storage, hot water heater, refrigeration and tools to allow for fully self-contained operation. Carcasses begin chilling immediately after processing and are down to temperature by the next morning.


Staff needed and how they were found/trained, what they cost

There are currently six full-time staff:

• Two butchers who do slaughter and fabrication; they go out with the trailer, separately or together;

• Three additional meat cutters;

• Scheduler/packager who also answers phones.

They have part-time staff for clean-up and packaging.

Hourly rates run from $11.00/hr to about $22.00, depending on experience. A reasonably skilled meat cutter earns $18-19/hour.

The senior butcher, who is also now the plant manager, is a year-round employee, on salary. All others are on an hourly wage. In 2008, IGFC began offering health insurance and paid vacations to all full-time employees; the insurance, though quite expensive, was necessary to retain them. Labor amounts to 75% of total costs.

IGFC found their staff by doing “a lot of looking.” At the very start, they hired the senior butcher, who was then working at a custom butcher shop. He was very experienced: grew up in a butchering family and went to school for it in Holland.

They needed more help when they opened the Bow fabrication plant. They were fortunate to find, through word of mouth, another butcher with experience. They trained two additional meat cutters and their packager from scratch. They trained their third meat cutter, who started as a cleaner for the summer, through a state job retraining program that paid half his wages for 6 months.

Training didn’t always work. To be good at cutting meat takes two years on the job. Meat-cutting training programs are typically only for 5-6 months.

As is typical for the meat processing industry, seasonality is still a problem. Business is slow February through April, so they encourage employees to take unpaid vacations during that time. It works out for everyone, because the employees can log some overtime in the busy summer months.

The biggest labor-related challenge? Business management. The senior butcher now manages the plant, but he started with no management experience. Co-op board members have trained him along the way, even taking over some tasks – e.g. scheduling, critical to cash flow – when necessary. Accounting is largely handled by the IGFC treasurer and an outside accountant.

The board is all-volunteer, but because this business is critical to their livelihoods, they pay close attention. If the business expands again, they will consider hiring a general manager, but that isn’t yet necessary.

The current challenge is how to squeeze the available resources in the busy times when there’s so much demand – they now have to push pretty hard.

Financial sustainability plan

The business is self-sustaining and hasn’t needed outside funding since initial development and construction. Future expansions will be financed by members or possibly though bank loans.


Markets accessed

Most members sell their product through a variety of retail channels (e.g. off-farm, farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, farm stands). Only a few sell wholesale.


Growth to date

Business has grown steadily. IGFC now has 65 members, most of whom raise and sell fewer than 50 head of beef per year, though a few do 100-200 per year. The MPU processed more than 300,000 lbs of meat in 2007, with a retail value of $1,044,000. They have already done one expansion at the cut and wrap facility, which nearly doubled their hanging room capacity, but they are maxed out on space yet again. Due to these space and staffing constraints, the Co-op is limited in its ability to take on any new members at this time. They are working on how to increase throughput by expanding the current plant further or building their own, but the cost would be very high. To continue to grow or not? It’s a complicated question. It’s tempting to expand, but the Co-op is hesitant to overextend itself.


Greatest Challenges

When the unit first began operating, funds were very tight. It took at least two years until the Co-op's finances stabilized. During that time, the Co-op tried to finance any additional needs through Co-op members instead of taking on debt from outside lending agencies. They now have a strong team in place, but finding and keeping the appropriate amount of skilled labor has consistently been a challenge. Looking ahead, the greatest challenge will be figuring out how and when to expand their operation in order to meet demand for their services.

Project BreakFAST Webinar: Increasing School Breakfast Participation among High School Students

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 15:51


Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day but many teenagers skip it. In this webinar you will learn about the evidenced-based Project breakFAST: Fueling Academics & Strengthening Teens. This research project was a four-year study to test ways to increase participation in USDA’s School Breakfast Program at 16 rural high schools by adding a Grab and Go breakfast. Overall, intervention schools increased participation in the School by 49% more than control schools and participation among the student breakfast skippers at intervention schools increased by 81% more than the students at control schools. The breakFAST project toolkit contains helpful information to form a School Breakfast Team, ideas for involving students in marketing school breakfast, and best practices for a successful breakfast program.


After this webinar, attendees will have learned:

1.  How Project breakFAST increased school breakfast participation by bringing breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the student hallways.

2.  How to access and use the Project breakFAST Toolkit to implement a Grab and Go or 2nd Chance Breakfast.

3.  Best practices for implementing a Grab and Go or 2nd Chance Breakfast in a high school.

  Tool Kit and Final Report PDF of Slides  


Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L) Stand Establishment: Key Factors for Success

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 17:09
Sponsoring Partner

Funded by AFRI. Learn More.

Table of Contents

Successful establishment is critical to the long-term economic viability of a switchgrass stand. But it is not difficult if these key management practices are followed: development of a good seedbed, certified seed planted at the correct time, with proper seeding depth and rates, and weed control.

While money spent on good-quality seed and weed control will likely result in a higher per acre cost for establishment, the reward is rapid establishment of a productive stand with lower costs per ton of harvest.  

Why Establishment is Important

Switchgrass is not difficult to establish given good management practices. Successful stand establishment, is critical to economic viability over the life of the switchgrass stand, expected to be at least ten years.  Growers in regions with good soils should be able to harvest in the planting year. (In areas with poor or marginal soils, a first-year harvest is likely to produce lower yields and to reduce stand quality and persistence. Delay harvest until the third year after establishment to achieve expected yields on these soils.)

While money spent on good-quality seed and weed control [link to Weed Control] will likely result in a higher per acre cost for establishment, the reward is a more productive stand and lower costs per ton of harvest.

Is Switchgrass Feasible for the Area?

First, determine if it is feasible to grow switchgrass in your area. A good rule of thumb is that switchgrass will be productive in an area that is suitable for dryland corn. Switchgrass is a warm-season grass native to most of North America except Washington, Oregon, and California.

Next, determine which cultivars are best adapted to your area.  Switchgrass is broadly adapted, and regionally specific cultivars are available for most of the United States. Lowland cultivars, such as Alamo and Kanlow, are best adapted to the southern and mid-latitude regions of the United States, while upland cultivars, such as Shawnee and Sunburst, grow best in the mid- and northern latitudes. High-yielding bioenergy cultivars are under development for some regions that result in 20 to 30 percent increases in yield compared with forage-type cultivars. Check with your local Extension office to determine which cultivars work best in your area.

With good management, switchgrass can be grown on land that is marginally productive for most crops, but avoid poorly drained soils in the northern United States, where frost heaving can be a problem. West of the 100th meridian, switchgrass can be grown with irrigation.

Soil Conditions and Planting Dates for Switchgrass

Switchgrass establishes and grows best in warm conditions, requiring a soil temperature of 60 degrees F or warmer for germination.. Optimal dates for planting vary across the United States and depend on the region, soil temperature, and moisture.  A general guideline is to plant switchgrass two to three weeks before or after the optimum corn planting date for your location; ranging from late March in the Southeast to late June in the northern Great Plains. Planting should be conducted with a grassland drill to place a specific amount of seed at an exact depth to promote rapid and low-cost establishment and reduce risks of seeding failure.

Take a soil test in the fall before planting to determine fertility needs. Do not apply nitrogen (N) fertilizer or manure to switchgrass in the seeding year.  Excessive N will encourage weeds that compete with the new seedlings, and increase the cost of establishment. A soil test will indicate whether to apply phosphorus and potassium before seeding for better root growth. Switchgrass can tolerate moderately acidic soils, but optimum seed germination occurs when soil pH is between 6 and 8.

Use a High-Quality Certified Seed

Switchgrass seeds are small and often have 250,000 to 400,000 seeds per pound. Choose high-quality, certified switchgrass seed from an adapted cultivar.  Base your seeding rate on Pure Live Seed (PLS, or the percent germination of the seed multiplied by the percent of pure seed of the actual seed in the switchgrass variety), not pounds of seed per acre. A seeding rate of 30 PLS per square foot is recommended.

Switchgrass seed can have high levels of dormancy, so select seed lots that have high germination, high purity, and low dormancy, which results in seed lots with a high percentage of PLS. Switchgrass seed lots can vary widely in germination rates and number of seeds per pound.

To make sure the seeding rate is accurate, first determine the percent PLS in the seed lot to be planted. Multiply the total germination rate by the seed purity (both of which are found on the seed tag), then divide by 100.  That will give you the percent of PLS in the seed lot. Remember, avoid seed lots with high dormancy. Multiply the desired seeding rate by 100 and divide by the percent PLS to find the actual seeding rate at which you must plant. For instance, if your goal is a seeding rate of 6 pounds per acre and the seed is 60% PLS, you must plant 10 pounds of seed per acre.

Develop a Good Seedbed No-till planting switchgrass No-till planting of switchgrass. Photo: University of Tennessee 

The first requirement for establishment is to develop a seedbed that promotes good seed-to-soil contact, especially important because switchgrass seeds are small. Grassland drills with depth bands will place seeds at a consistent depth. No-till seeding may be the most successful method, if the weeds and crop residue are managed before planting. Plant into stubble with a no-till drill with small seed boxes, followed by press wheels. When planting switchgrass after a crop that leaves a heavy residue, such as corn or soybeans, reduce residue by grazing, shredding, or baling it.

If the soil is clean-tilled, harrow the field and pack firmly with a culti-packer to leave only a faint footprint when stepped on. If a prepared seedbed is rained on, harrow and culti-pack it again before planting. A seedbed as prepared for alfalfa is an excellent seedbed for switchgrass.

Planting Methods

Using a properly calibrated grassland drill, plant at a seeding rate of 30 PLS per foot. Plant one-quarter to one-half inch deep, but no deeper, because switchgrass seeds are smalland will have trouble emerging if planted too deep. Rows should be spaced six to 10 inches apart.

Manage Weeds ASAP!

The main reason that switchgrass stands fail is because of competition from weeds; therefore weed control is essential. Don’t delay. Apply pre-emergent herbicides immediately after planting.

Determining a Successful Stand

Check the stand six to 10 weeks after planting, using a frequency grid. A stand is considered successfully established if seedling frequency of occurrence is greater than 40 percent, or three to six plants per square feet.

A stand that can be harvested in the planting year is essential to an economically viable switchgrass stand. Recent research in Nebraska  found that the total costs of growing switchgrass were nearly $30 per ton higher during a five-year period, if a switchgrass stand failed to be harvestable in the year it was seeded.


Be sure to harvest only after a killing frost in the establishment year so the stand is not damaged, and leave at least a 6-inch stubble. A crop equal to about half of the stand’s potential production can be harvested after frost at the end of the planting year if there is proper weed control and favorable precipitation. Then, the first year after planting, expect 75 to 100 percent of full production.

For Additional Information Contributors to this Article Authors Peer Reviewers


CenUSA Bioenergy is a coordinated research and education effort investigating the creation of a regional system in the Central US for producing advanced transportation fuels from perennial grasses on land that is either unsuitable or marginal for row crop production.* In addition to producing advanced biofuels, the proposed system will improve the sustainability of existing cropping systems by reducing agricultural runoff of nutrients in soil and increasing carbon sequestration.

CenUSA is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30411 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.



2016 Newsletter Archive Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 20:17

<==Subscribe to the newsletter or browse the current issue

December 2016

The final issue of 2016 includes a webinar on Pathogens 101 which focuses on the basics of manure-borne pathogens and connections to human health. The newsletter also reminds you to register for Waste to Worth 2017 and highlights an adaptation planning guide developed by the climate team. The "Around the Horns" section includes several grazing management and farming systems resources as well as nutrient management, water quality, and safety/health links. More...

November 2016

November's installment highlights a webinar on an online nutrient management tool called GoCrop that was developed through extensive work with farmers of all sizes. The webinar also includes a short case study on the strict nutrient management requirements in Vermont. The Waste to Worth 2017 conference registration is open. The newsletter highlights several policy and regulation topics as well as water quality. It also includes a science communication video and a strong focus on safety and health topics. More...

October 2016

The October newsletter has an exciting announcement about the 3rd Waste to Worth conference and highlights an upcoming webcast on manure and soil health. We also rundown a wide range of topics in the news from antibiotics to water quality and several in between, like composting and recycling digested manure solids for bedding. Check out the calendar of events and the news droppings, which include a manure "taste test" for dung beetles at a zoo. More...

September 2016

The first issue of autumn includes a webinar on the EPA nutrient recycling challenge and the progression from Phase I to Phase II. The "Around the Horns" section covers topics from a historical look at elections influenced by the animal ag industry and a report from Iowa State University on trends in funding for agricultural research and extension. It also includes several entries about nutrient management and antibiotics as well as greenhouse gases, air quality and more....

Summer 2016

After a short summer vacation, the newsletter and webcast series are back! The August webcast is about Manure Transport and Safety and will be the first in the new Zoom webinar room provided by eXtension. Save the date for Waste to Worth April 18-21, 2017. There is also  "Climate Impacts to Water" conference in January, 2017. Around the Horns includes sections on policy, sustainable ag, water quality, antibiotics, and several other topics. More...

May 2016

May brings news of a webcast on the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) as well as drones and potential uses in animal agriculture. The LPELC webcast series will be moving to a new virtual meeting room in August. The newsletter is chock full of nutrient management news and upcoming webinar opportunities on small-scale digesters and a manure pit design tool. More...

April 2016

The first issue of spring includes a webcast on manure entomology and highlights manure-to-energy performance data from gasifiers and combustion systems installed on commercial poultry farms.  We look at composting pig mortalities and impacts on PEDv survivability, discussions on manure regulations and court cases, and several great nutrient management resources. More...

February/March 2016

This edition of livestock and poultry stewardship news reviewed part 2 of the series on manure storage pond liners and looks ahead to a presentation on antibiotic resistance. We also highlight a new series of videos on nutrient management and water quality regulations. Many links to stories related to hormones, antibiotics, and pathogens were found this month. Other topics covered also included grazing, farming systems, manure as a resource and much more.

January 2016

The first issue of 2016 gets things started off right with a webcast on manure storage pond liners. We also spotlight a manure experts database that lets you find knowledgeable people on many topics or in different geographical areas. The tour around news items takes us to grazing management, nutrient management, climate and methane, antibiotics, and more. There is also a long list of great events and webinars you may want to check out. More...

March 2018 Newsletter Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 14:50

<==Subscribe to the newsletter or browse past issues

Webcast Series Looking Ahead to April: Equipment and Facilities for Managing Manure on Small Farms

The April webcast takes a look at small farms and will include the following segments and presenters. Be sure to join us!

  • Manure storage areas and related structures   (Jeffrey Porter, USDA-NRCS)
  • Poultry structures and facilities  (Casey Ritz, University of Georgia)
  • Equipment for use on small livestock farms, (Tommy Bass, Montana State University)
  • Composting on small livestock or equine farms (Carissa Wickens, University of Florida)

  April 20, 2018 at 2:30 pm EDT (1:30 CDT; 12:30 MDT; and 11:30 a.m. PDT) More information will be posted on the webcast calendar page as soon as it is available.

More on Webcasts...

Conservation Practices Commonly Used in Animal Agriculture What's Going On In the LPELC?

Waste to Worth 4. The 2019 Waste to Worth conference will be held in April, 2019 in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. If you want to be part of the planning team, fill out this form.

Around the Horns

Water Quality. The North Central Water Network held a webinar on Manure, Water, and Soil Health. A description is available at the webinar archive. View the recording...

Compost Benefits. ATTRA has released a new publication "How to Add Compost to Your Small Farm". This guide covers the benefits of compost which provides nutrients to plants, improves soil structure, increases water-holding capacity, and suppresses root diseases by supporting beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Learn more or download the guide...

Natural Disasters. A new report details the federal government's natural disaster relief programs for livestock producers from 2008-16. The report shows differences in regions as well as differences in payments across years. Learn more...

Land Use Data. If you are interested in seeing how land use patterns have changed over time in the U.S. check out the USDA Economic Research Service report "Major Land Uses". The data is current through 2012, except for cropland data which is updated through 2017.

Pathogens. Research from Cornell University has shown that water troughs are a significant way that E. coli spreads among cattle in feedlots. They investigated if lowering water levels in troughs could decrease the prevalence of the pathogen, but found it increased it instead. Read more...

Nutrient Management. The Manure Scoop blog by Dan Anderson at Iowa State University covers variable rate manure application in a series of posts. Introduction and challenges | Example and economics

Avian Influenza. The highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak required proper carcass management to avoid further spread of the disease. The following videos provide an overview of mass poultry mortality composting and can be used by the poultry industry, state and federal agencies, and emergency response contractors. Go to the video playlist...

Regulation & Policy.

  • A provision in the omnibus spending bill signed by President Trump exempts livestock operations from reporting under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Read more at Successful Farming... | Ohio's Country Journal...
  • USDA has withdrawn a proposed rule related to organic livestock and poultry production. The rule had focused on animal welfare, especially on outdoor access for animals. Read more...

Pastured Livestock. USDA NRCS held a webinar on "Grazing and Nutrient Management". The presentation looked at: What is the nutrient uptake by the animals? How many nutrients are returned to the pastures/rangelands through manure? What is the distribution of the nutrients? Are supplemental nutrients required to maintain pasture plant health? Read more or view the recording...

Farmer Stewardship. New York farmers discussed manure management challenges, especially those related to winter manure handling. Read more...

Events & Announcements

SARE Conference. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program is hosting a once-every-decade conference "Our Farms Our Future: The Next 30 Years of Sustainable Agriculture". April 3-5, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. More...

Animal Mortality. The International Symposium on Animal Mortality Management will be held June 3-7, 2018 in Amarillo, Texas. Read more...

ASABE 2018. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) Annual International Meeting will be held July 29 - August 1, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. Meeting website...

ILES. The Call for Papers is open for the 10th International Livestock Environment Symposium. ILES X will be held in Omaha, Nebraska September 25-27, 2018. More...

News Droppings

A look at animal agriculture, stewardship, and manure in the news: serious, funny or controversial. We don't endorse this stuff, we just think you should know about it.

"Process upcycles manure for sustainable paper" from Feedstuffs

"Scientist working on process to turn cow manure gas into a natural battery" from Press Herald

If you have any questions about this newsletter, please contact Jill Heemstra jheemstra@unl.edu

NEW REGISTRATION LINK: Abrasive Weeding: Efficacy, Multifunctionality, and Profitability

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 19:56

Due to a change in service of our long-time webinar provider, we have had to switch to a new program: Webex. If you registered for this webinar in gotowebinar, please register again in webex! We apologize for the inconvenience, but we want to make sure that you and everyone who is interested can join, and our former program has limited the number of attendees! So please register again and join us for this informative presentation on this new organic weeding method!

Join eOrganic for a new webinar on abrasive weeding by Sam Wortman of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln The webinar takes place on March 29, 2018 at 2PM Eastern, 1PM Central, 12PM Mountain and 11AM Pacific Time. The webinar is free and open to the public and advance registration is required.

Register now at:


About the Webinar

Small grits propelled by compressed air can be used to abrade weed seedlings within crop rows. This non-chemical weed management tactic is called abrasive weeding, and our research team has been developing new grit application technologies, exploring multifunctional grit sources, and studying effects of air-propelled grits on a diversity of weeds and crops throughout the Midwest. In this webinar, we will present results from over three years of research and development, and discuss opportunities for maximizing weed control, crop nutrition and yield, and profitability with abrasive weeding. eOrganic hosted an introductory webinar about this topic in 2015, available here, and this presentation will add new information.eOrganic also published an article and video about abrasive weeding, available here.


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

eOrganic 24056

2018 Farm Bill Outlook

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 18:54

With net farm income in the U.S. falling to a 12-year low, there are very real challenges in the farm economy. The 2018 Farm Bill will seek to provide much needed relief to farmers and ranchers by improving farm safety net programs, revisiting conservation programs, and potentially making reforms in nutrition programs. Dr. Newton will provide an outlook on the 2018 Farm Bill and highlight some of the key policy issues identified by American Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm Bill Working Group.

  Time and Date: Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 12:00 – 1:00 (EDT) Participation:

This webinar is offered free of charge and is limited to the first 100 registrants. It is recommended that you test your computer for software compatibility prior to the webinar by clicking here.

There is no pre-registration for this webinar. To enter the webinar, simply click here shortly before it begins.     Dr. John Newton
Director, Market Intelligence
American Farm Bureau Federation

Dr. Newton has worked in the agricultural sector for nearly 15 years, serving the United States Department of Agriculture, the Senate Agriculture Committee majority staff, and on faculty with the University of Illinois. Dr. Newton now serves as Director of Market Intelligence for American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest farm organization of independent farmers in the United States. In this role Dr. Newton provides analyses used for the development of and advocacy for Farm Bureau policy. Dr. Newton also serves on the board of directors for the Council on food and resource economics, and in 2016 was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to the agricultural trade advisory committee and advisory committee on agricultural statistics.

  Research & Materials:

Farm Bills/Economic Stimulus Congressional Research Service Reports

Selected CRS Reports:

Farm Bill Primer Series: A Guide to Omnibus Legislation and Food Programs (R44913, McMinimy)
Previewing a 2018 Farm Bill (R44784, Johnson)

Farm Bill Resources