Delmarva Farmer Columnists


Food confusion (July 18, 2017)

The Vegetable Grower

By Dr. Rich Barczewski, Associate Professor, Delaware State University

For a few days last week, I had the opportunity to visit my son Adam who is in graduate school in New Hampshire.
Like all of my children, Adam is more agriculturally aware of many of the current happenings in agriculture and also like my other children, he will often call out folks who have misperceptions about agriculture.
During our visit, we stopped by a local farmers’ market in a nearby town and had a chance to view some of the local products.
In addition to many of the standard fruits and vegetable offerings, we also found bottled milk (in several flavors), goat cheese, honey, maple syrup and even frozen meat products.
While everything wasn’t organic, there was an abundance of sustainably produced products, and non-GMO’s in addition to the more traditionally produced items.
That started some discussion as to why folks think that GMOs are bad, or that organic is better and even why free range may not be all it is cracked up to be.
The truth is that the average consumer knows very little about where their food comes from and as a result of that, anyone who is willing to make the argument that organic is better is likely to win them over.
Why? It comes down to the idea of chemicals and peoples ideas of chemicals.
Now to be perfectly honest with you, I need to come clean and let you know that Adam is working on his Ph.D. in biochemistry and he does know a thing or two about chemistry in general and chemicals specifically.
Chemicals are not all bad.
As a matter of fact, many chemicals are vital to our own survival.
Water is a chemical comprised of two molecules of hydrogen attached to one molecule of oxygen.
Is water bad? Obviously not, but in certain situations water can be deadly.
We all realize that too much water can result in people drowning.
Floods kill people every year in our country but do we hear folks complaining about water as a nasty chemical? You do not have to drown for water to kill you either.
Recently, I was informed that some folks have died by over hydrating (drinking too much water), in the absence of food, and they actually died because they had too much water in their system.
Ultimately, and this is something that I always try to teach students in my class, it is the dose that makes the poison.
Chemicals can be poisonous, but some chemicals are essential for life.
Some can enhance life and some can destroy life.
Some chemicals are essential in certain small amounts, but can be toxic in larger amounts, but one thing is certain, without chemicals, we would not have life.
One of the issues that those of use in agriculture are faced with is public perception of what we do and how we do it.
Essentially, most consumers do not trust us to be doing the right thing an only see farmers as chasing the dollar and being willing to do anything and everything in the name of profit.
This is so untrue and so unfortunate for those of us involved in production agriculture.
Do not get me wrong on this. I do not have any problem with folks who want to grow crops organically.
What does bother me is when folks profess that food produced organically is in some way safer because it did not involve the use of chemicals in the production.
In some ways, the organic/non-organic production or the GMO/non-GMO production can pit one farmer against another when in fact both sides are doing what they do, in an attempt to meet consumer needs.
Systems are in place to make sure that any chemicals used in the production of food are safe when they are used in the proper amounts and in the proper ways.
Farmers cannot afford to overuse any chemicals and foods are generally tested to insure they are residue safe and wholesome.
We can say the same thing about antibiotics and GMO’s. If the products on the market we determined to be harmful in any way, they would not be on the market.
Now for one disclaimer, some folks do have food allergies and that is an entirely different matter.
It would be obviously harmful for a person with a peanut allergy to consume peanuts and I would be irresponsible not to point that out, however allergies generally do not impact the entire population and folks without allergies can safely consume foods produced by any modern or sustainable method currently in use.

ARC/PLC enrollment deadline is Aug. 1 (July 18, 2017)

Keeping the Farm

By Bob Wevodau, Ag Program Specialist, Farm Service Agency, Maryland

Summer is upon us, there is no doubt about it.
I know this not because it’s hotter than 90 degrees and really humid, but because it is acreage reporting time in Maryland.
Right now our offices are busy taking acreage reports, trying to certify as many farms as possible to meet the July 15 deadline.
Actually, this year the deadline falls on a Saturday, so it’s July 17.
Regardless everyone is working hard.
July is to FSA what the fourth of July is to firework companies, which is to say, it’s very busy.
By the time you are reading this however, acreage reporting will be over, and it is on to the next big thing at FSA: The ARC/PLC Program.
The ARC/PLC program is one of our biggest programs in Maryland with thousands of producers participating.
And like so many other things in life, there is a deadline for ARC/PLC Enrollment and that deadline is Aug. 1.
As a quick refresher, ARC stands for Agriculture Risk Coverage.
It is then broken down into ARC-County and ARC-Individual, depending on whether you want to use your own data for your coverage or the county wide data.
ARC payments are issued when crop revenues for a covered commodity are less than the guarantee for that commodity.
PLC stands for “Price Loss Coverage” and payments are issued when the effective price of a covered commodity is less than the respective reference price for that commodity.
The effective price equals the higher of the market year average, or the national average loan rate for the covered commodity.
You don’t have to choose between the two as you already did that when you made your election back in 2015.
But you do still need to enroll each year as electing and enrolling aren’t the same thing.
The good news is that in Maryland we have been pretty aggressive in getting our producers enrolled.
For the past several months we have been enrolling at a pace well in front of the National Average.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is, and maybe “bad” isn’t the right adjective but the other news is that we aren’t at 100 percent yet, and Aug. 1 is rapidly approaching.
Now may be a good time to make sure you are enrolled.
Though we all wish for great yields and prices we know how fickle Mother Nature can be.
Which is why we have the ARC/PLC program, to protect you against times of low revenue.
So far, under the 2014 Farm Bill, we have issued more than $2 million in ARC/PLC benefits.
But to be eligible for those benefits you need to enroll by Aug. 1.
Though most Maryland producers have enrolled for the 2018 program year, not everyone has.
If you think you may be one of those who have yet to enroll, please contact your local FSA Office.
Because if you qualify for a payment, and you don’t receive it, then we’ll probably really see some fireworks.