Page 1


Spring Farm


Hampton Chronicle Special Edition May 15, 2013

Hampton Farm

Going Organic

page 2-3

WHY farmland values are increasing

Hampton Farm wins 2012 SPENCER

AWARD page 6

may & decrease page 5



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May 15, 2013 • Section C

Scientist Farmers Study Organic Systems By Travis Fischer


he traditions of agricultural may invoke images of the simple farmer tending his crop, but the reality is that there is a lot of science behind every field of corn and beans. Doug Alert of Hampton is both a farmer and researcher, studying various farming methods and techniques and sharing his results with the Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperative. Alert got involved with the PFI in 1989 after being introduced to Dick Thompson of Boone, one of the organization’s charter members. “I was going to his farm field days when I was in college,� says Alert. “That’s what kind of got my interest.� Practical Farmers of Iowa began as a research organization in response to the farm crisis of the 1980s. Farmers seeking methods to improve profitability joined together to conduct research trials in an realworld farming environment. Initially focused on studying the most efficient uses of fertilizer and pesticides, the research network has grown from 16 farmers to more than 90 farmers that use their fields, equipment, and expertise to perform research projects on a wide range of farming topics. Research trials range from swine feeding, vegetable production, and different approaches to soil testing. The 2,000 PFI members also make themselves available to share their advice and expertise along with their scientific data. “It’s largely about making personal connections,� says Alert. “I’m currently working with one young farmer that has the opportunity to call me any time if he has an issue or question.� Alert made his most important personal connection during a field day with Practical Farmers when he met a woman named Margaret Smith, who had just finished her PhD in crop ecology and crop production. Alert and Smith discovered they shared many common interest and goals, including farming, and

ORGANIC NO-TILL. Rye dilled into previous corn crop. The cornstalks were grazed in the fall, 2012, then rye drilled in late October. Then, red clover was frost-seeded over the rye in March, 2013. This is a recent experiment/demonstration for this and last growing seasons. married in 1994. Smith, who now works full time for Iowa State University, found a partner in Alert in every sense of the word. Together they work to share

multi-year tests to see how things work in various weather conditions, although Mother Nature can at times be an uncooperative lab partner. “Single-year results can be

An organic farm is designed to mimic a natural eco-system by encouraging biodiversity between the crops, livestock, and other plant and animal species on the farm. data with PFI while performing experiments in conjunction with ISU. The combination of scientifically valid methodology and real world farming conditions provides a great opportunity to advance agricultural science. Smith and Alert often conduct

misleading if the growing conditions are unusual or extreme,� says Smith. Over the years Alert and Smith have performed several experiments in their fields, such as soil nitrate tests and and exploring alternative methods of weed control. Recently, the couple has been working to

integrate cover crop techniques into their farming system. A cover crop is planted after the harvest to avoid bare soil after the fall harvest. By planting rye in the fall, the cover crop keeps the soil covered with growing material during the winter months. This helps protect the soil from winter winds and spring rains. “That way, going through the late fall, early winter, and late spring, we have something out there growing, putting down roots, and stabilizing the soil,� says Alert. When the time comes to plant again, the cover crop is destroyed to make room for a new crop of corn. Alert and Smith have conducted more than twenty-six different research projects on their farm over the years, earning them the honor of being among the first to receive the Practical Farmers of Iowa Master Researcher award. Continue on page 3

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May 15, 2013 • Section C


“Organic Farm...� from page 2

One area of study Alert and Smith have truly pioneered is the science of the organic farm. An organic farm is designed to mimic a natural eco-system by encouraging biodiversity between the crops, livestock, and other plant and animal species on the farm. Farmers strive for increased ecological efficiency by maximizing sunlight, carbon capture, and nutrient and water cycling. Instead of pesticides and herbicides, Alert and Smith use biodiversity, along with cultural and mechanical methods to manage weeds, insects, and diseases that may compete with crops while creating an environment conductive to crop growth. “We have some different ‘tools’ in our farming toolbox,� says Smith. “Though we can’t use herbicides or manufactured fertilizers, we have fostered a diverse soil biology that helps cycle minerals from manure and our soil organic matter quickly through the system and helps to temper the growth of several insects and plant disease organisms.� Organic systems take a long time to establish. For any field, a crop can only be certified organic after 36 months from the last application of manufactured fertilizer or pesticide, including genetically engineered crops. Alert and Smith began buying land eleven years ago and it took seven years to completely convert their farm to a certified organic system. “It’s not a decision you can make today,� says Alert. “It’s a decision you have to make two or three years ago.� Once the farm is certified as organic, the Iowa Department of Agriculture requires a yearly recertification process to continue. The couple submits a farming plan, including planned crop rotations, seed choices, and pest management strategies for each field they farm. Strategies for raising organic livestock must also be documented. These plans are then reviewed by a third-party auditor, who will conduct site visits to make

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sure the plan is being followed. Today Alert and Smith farm 18 miles across their own land and the land they lease from three other landowners. The organic conversion process may have been long, but it provided a great deal of data that the couple compiles and shares with other farmers that want to transition into organic methods. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Since there is a learning curve involved, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recommended that you start with one field and as you get a little success and confidence you build from there,â&#x20AC;? says Alert. Their organic farm allows Alert and Smith to make a reasonable living off of fewer acres of land and provides them a fertile testing ground to satisfy their scientific curiosity. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We tend to test something where we have a burning question and we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find the answer,â&#x20AC;? says Smith. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Where we definitely need an answer or new technique for us to manage our farm business.â&#x20AC;? One of these questions has led to literal burning. Lately Alert has been experimenting with a weed control method called â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;flame weeding.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; The

technique is exactly what it sounds like, using propane burners over the fields to kill weeds. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s one Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m still experimenting with,â&#x20AC;? says Alert. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There are certain weeds that it will kill readily, like buttonweed, and others that it will stunt, but never kill.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;In our farming system, we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t use manufactured herbicides, but we can use propane gas,â&#x20AC;? says Smith. By directing fire from the flat fan burners at small weeds, the heat boils the water inside the plan cells, disrupting the cell membranes. By pulling flat fan burners over the fields, the heat boils the water inside the cells of the weeds. The method is effective at killing weeds, but comes with an obvious risk of damaging the crop along with them. Flame weeding requires precise amounts of both flame and ground speed in order to be effective at weed control while leaving crops undamaged. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I would say that the general consensus is that itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a valuable tool, but weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a little inconsistent in the application of our technique,â&#x20AC;? says Alert. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had trials that have

cost me significant yield. Having to learn what windows in the growth of the primary crop is what weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re learning.â&#x20AC;? Whether itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s studying the effects of grazing or trying to grow uncommon crops like flax, Alert and Smith continue to test different ways of farming in their search for greater efficiency within natural systems.

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Drought has affected nitrogen levels

Drought causing Vitamin



in calves


he drought of 2012 has likely increased the carryover of nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate-N) into the 2013 season, according to field agronomists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. In addition to less nitrogen being used by last year’s crop, the reduced rainfall in 2012 resulted in less nitrate leaving the soil through leaching and de-nitrification (loss by gas into the atmosphere). “It is common for about 40 to 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre to carry over from one season to the next, but soil samples taken in the fall of 2012 indicate that we have fields this year that may have over 100 pounds per acre of nitrogen carried over from last year,” said Jim Fawcett, ISU Extension field agronomist. “This provides farmers with the opportunity to cut their nitrogen rates this spring unless we have an unusually wet spring.”


Fawcett recommends growers pull some soil samples this spring to estimate the carryover. Before any spring nitrogen is applied, take the following steps to estimate sample on an area of nitrate-N carryover: no more than 10 to 20 acres. Mix thoroughly 1. Pull 1-foot soil sam- and send a subsample ples to at least a 2-foot (standard soil sample depth (0-1 foot and 1-2 size) to the lab to test foot) before the spring for nitrate. Multiple N is applied. A 3-foot samples per field depth is preferable. should be collected. Pull 15-30 cores per 2. Take the soil test result (ppm nitrate-N) times four to calculate pounds per acre of N.

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5. Regardless of lab results, apply no less than 50 pounds per acre if no N has been applied, to account for field variability.

owa State University Extension and Outreach beef veterinarian Grant Dewell said effects of last year’s drought are evident at the Iowa State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in the form of an increasing number of calves with vitamin A deficiency. The 2012 drought and subsequent low-quality hay supplies for winter feeding mean cows don’t have normal liver stores of vitamin A, and without supplementation cows will potentially be deficient in vitamin A. That can lead to a variety of calf health problems, Dewell said. “Typically, calves have been submitted with a history of being either stillborn or weak at birth. Some veterinarians have reported blindness, neurologic signs or diarrhea that can also be associated with vitamin A deficiency,” he said. “Severe vitamin A deficiency can result in abnormal bone development in fetal calves. Other calves may be born weak and fail to thrive. Additionally, poor immune function can lead to increased infectious disease incidence,” he said. Dewell recommended that cows receive supplemental Vitamin A either orally or by injections. Calves may benefit from an injection of vitamin A at birth and potentially a second dose in two to three weeks, especially if cows have not been supplemented.

“If farmers are not able to do the soil sampling, I would recommend that they at least cut back their nitrogen rates to be on the low end of the range of recommended rates,” said Fawcett. “If we fail to account for this carryover nitrogen and put on a full nitrogen rate this spring, it may result in increased nitrate losses in 2013 and future years.”

3. Add up the N in each foot and subtract the “normal” carryover N (40 pounds per acre for 2 foot depth and 50 pounds per acre for 3 foot depth).

One tool is the corn nitrogen rate calculator found at http://extension. aspx. For more information, contact your ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist; field agronomists are listed at http://www.extension.

4. Subtract the carryover N from your usual N rate.

ISU Extension and Outreach resources for crop-related issues during a drought can be found at www.


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verage Iowa farmland value is estimated to be $8,296 per acre, an increase of 23.7 percent from 2011, according to results of the Iowa Land Value Survey conducted in November. This is the third year in a row where values have increased more than 15 percent. The 2012 values are historical peaks. The increase is somewhat higher than results of other recent surveys of Iowa farmland value: the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank estimated an 18 percent increase in Iowa land values from October 2011 to October 2012, and the Iowa Chapter of the Realtors Land Institute estimated a 7.7 percent increase from March to September 2012. “The difference in survey estimates could be due to values increasing more rapidly in the past few months than earlier in the year,” said Mike Duffy, Iowa State University economics professor and extension farm management economist. Duffy conducts the survey. “Better than expected crop yields and the level of land sale activity due to the proposed changes in landrelated taxes contributed to the increasing values,” he added. “The Iowa State survey samples different populations, and uses different wording than the other surveys. This could also lead to different results, especially in times of uncertainty. Even within the Iowa State survey there was considerable variation in the estimates,” he said. “The 2012 land value survey covers one of the most remarkable

years in Iowa land value history,” said Duffy. “This is the highest state value recorded by the survey, and the first time county averages have reached levels over $10,000. While this is an interesting time, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding future land values.” Duffy said understanding some of the causes for the current increase in farmland values is helpful in assessing the situation. Farmland values are highly correlated with farm income. As farm income increases, so will land values. In 2005, corn prices averaged $1.94 per bushel in Iowa. The preliminary estimated price for November 2012 was $6.80. Soybean prices changed from $5.54 to $13.70 over the same period. Coming into 2012, there was a general sentiment that prices would decline from their peaks. But, the drought changed this, and the prices remained at high levels. How long the high prices will last is unknown. There has been considerable variation in commodity prices over the past few years, but farm income has increased substantially. Duffy said the increase in income has been the primary cause for the increase in farmland values, but not the only one. “Interest rates are at the lowest level in recent memory,” Duffy said. “Farmland purchased by investors went from 18 percent in 1989 to 39 percent of purchases in 2005, but investor purchases are back to the 1989 level of 18 percent this year after decreasing for the third year in a row.”

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Another key component is the costs of production. In the past, costs have risen in response to higher commodity prices. This is especially true for rents. Iowa State University estimated costs of crop production have shown a 61 percent increase in the cost per bushel since 2005. Without land, the increase has been 87 percent. Duffy believes there is still discipline in the land market. While land values have increased 64 percent in the past three years, in 2009 values did decrease by 2.2 percent. Therefore, it is prudent to be mindful of the factors that influence land values. The economist said there are several key components to watch: • Weather related problems – both here and around the world; • Government policies – especially policies related to estate and capital gains tax rates; • The amount of debt incurred with land acquisition; • What happens to input costs – land being the residual claimant to any excess profits in agriculture; • Government monetary policies as they relate to inflation and interest rates; • The performance of the U.S. economy and economies throughout the world which impact commodity prices, which in turn impact land values. While the highest county land values were reported in O’Brien County, Decatur County remained the lowest reported land value, $3,242 per acre, and the lowest dollar increase, $521. Keokuk and

Washington Counties had the lowest percentage increase, 14.8 percent, with reported average values of $6,330 and $8,226, respectively. Low grade land in the state averaged $5,119 per acre and showed a 20.2 percent increase or $862 per acre, while medium grade land averaged $7,773 per acre; high grade land averaged $10,181 per acre. The lowest land value was estimated in the South Central Crop Reporting District, $4,308, while the lowest percentage increase was in the Southeast Crop Reporting District with an 8.2 percent increase. The Northwest Crop Reporting District reported a 36.8 percent increase, the highest district average percentage reported. Maps showing 2012 values, percentage change and comparisons to 2011 data and additional information from Duffy are available at The Iowa Land Value Survey was initiated in 1941 and is sponsored by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Iowa State University. Only the state average and the district averages are based directly on the Iowa State survey data. The county estimates are derived using a procedure that combines survey results with data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture. The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers and selected individuals considered knowledgeable of land market conditions. The 2012 survey is based on 486 usable responses providing 663 county land value estimates.


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It’s all about connections to habitat, farming, community Healthy Harvest coordinator and her husband awarded Editor’s note: Jan Libbey coordinates Healthy Harvest North Iowa, a local farm-to-table marketing group serving nine counties in north central Iowa, including Franklin.


t’s all about connections for Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf, the newest winners of the Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture. First, it was their desire to be connected to “quality habitat” that drew them to buy land next-door to East Twin Lake, a natural, glacial wetland and upland woods complex in north central Iowa. Next, a notion that they could sustain the land and it could sustain them nudged them toward farming. More recently they’ve invited family, farm crew members and their community into this love of the land, testimony to their belief that “sustainability is deeply seated in relationships.” Connections also have helped them with numerous challenges during the past year, including the drought. By June they were watering fruit and vegetable crops almost daily, and found a need to trust at a wholly new level. “Our crews weathered the heat diligently all season,” said Jan. “We didn’t have bumper crops on anything but our CSA boxes were full every week.” They started an early Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise in their region in 1996. Jan became involved in a community effort to open a small local farmers market in Belmond. By 2002, it appeared that local food production opportunities were going to continue to grow, so the couple decided to take a leap of faith. Tim left his off-farm job as an engineer, and they set about to expand the CSA and farm full-time together. Their pace reflects the name for their operation, One Step at a Time Gardens. Their outlook is in their farm motto: “Raising healthy food… raising hope.” From their website: “Our motto comes from our vision that raising food with our crew, from this land and for our members, customers and friends opens channels for reconnection on a profound level. Sustainable life choices come in many forms. We believe food – how and where it is grown, and the eater and farmer connection – is an important first step.” They own 132 acres, of which nine acres are used to grow vegetables. They also raise about 650 chickens each summer in a pastured-poultry operation. They have converted 45 acres to permanent cover, including prairie grasses and flowers, shrubs, trees and restored wetlands. In addition to cover crops, they use composted animal manures, diverse crop rotations, shallow cultivation, mulching and grass pathways. Landgraf has served on the PFI board of directors since 2006 and has been president since 2009. Libbey has been a leader in numerous community groups including the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, Healthy Harvest of North Iowa and the North Iowa Farmers Market. Libbey has an animal ecology degree from Iowa State University and worked for the Wright County Conservation Board as a naturalist. They have two children, a daughter at Luther College in Decorah, and a son who is an



1274A Olive Ave. • Hampton, IA


May 15, 2013 • Section C

Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf received the 2012 Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture on January 11 during annual conference activities for Practical Farmers of Iowa. They started an early Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise in the region in 1996 before expanding the CSA and farm full-time together. They also have participated in on-farm research through PFI.

Harvesting in the hoop house agricultural engineer for Case New What do you enjoy about the Holland. “Our motto comes from our vision farm? Landgraf worked as a Tim: We meet a lot of that raising food with our crew, manufacturing engineer for many interesting people, which is fun. years at Eaton Corporation. We have participated in lots of from this land and for our members, They admit they’ve been on-farm research … One of Dr. extremely busy this season, and that customers and friends opens channels Mark Gleason’s students came they’ve had little time to ponder two or three seasons, looking at for reconnection on a profound level. the award. They sat down recently pollinator habitat related to cucurbits with the Leopold Center for a Skype Sustainable life choices come in many (cucumbers and melons). We used interview, and to talk about their to have commercial bee hives on forms. We believe food – how and where farm. Here are excerpts. our farm, but that person retired so They also have participated it is grown, and the eater and farmer we wondered what was pollinating in on-farm research through PFI our crops. Through this project connection – is an important first step.” and the Organic Agriculture and with ISU, we’ve discovered the Horticulture programs at Iowa State farm has a significant population of University. Projects have included bumblebees, and squash bees — a native bee that has evolved around the cover crops, poultry feed efficiencies, broccoli and edamame trials and squash plant. By golly, we had both species. pollinator assessment and identification. Jan: We began hiring interns in 2003 through the ‘Life in Iowa’ summer

What makes your operation sustainable?

Tim: Sustainability to us is looking at many aspects of the farm: habitat, soil use, energy use, the social connections and what impact we’re having in our community. As farmers we’re using resources – soil, water, energy – and we try to look at how we can give back… What are we doing to improve the soil?

How can we improve habitat? Jan: Sustainability is deeply seated in relationships. We have a relationship with the farm – it gives to us and we try to give to it. It’s made possible so many other relationships that make our life full. Tim: I don’t know if you ever become a sustainable farm. We’re always learning new things, there’s always more you can do. You can work at getting better at something.

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student internship program offered by Iowa State (a Leopold Center project). We learn as much if not more from them as they do from us, we always look forward to the energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the farm. They are hungry for information, and our operation improves because of their questions.

What advice do you have for a beginning farmer? Jan: Pay attention to those folks who can help you achieve your goals and recognize that people are also looking your direction for that same kind of help. We wouldn’t be where we are without the help of so many different folks. It’s always give-and-take. We’ve learned from other farmers, family members, farm crews, PFI, partners, extension and many other connections. This article was adapted from one first published by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in the Winter 2012 issue of The Leopold Letter, www.


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May 15, 2013 • Section C


Say NO to spring tillage


pring tillage is a tradition steeped deeply in American agriculture. But more and more farmers are realizing that this iconic tradition is costing them — in more ways than one, according to the USDA. Tillage comes at a high price. There are the known expenses like increased fuel and labor costs. But according to Rick Bednarek, state soil scientist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Des Moines, the bigger, long-term cost may be the loss of soil health and function, resulting in lower yields, higher input costs and reduced drought resiliency for Iowa farms. “Tillage is incredibly destructive to the soil structure and to the soil ecosystem,” Bednarek said. “Healthy soil is 50 percent air and water — which is made possible by the pore space in the soil — and 50 percent mineral and organic matter. But tillage collapses and destroys that structure, making the soil vulnerable to erosion and compaction,” he said. The possibility of another dry year should also have producers rethinking their use of tillage, Bednarek said. “Because it destroys organic matter and soil structure, tillage actually reduces the soil’s infiltration capacity,” he said. “Studies have shown that each tillage pass can release a half-inch of soil moisture from each acre. Tillage tends to limit the availability of water in the soil, and that could prove very costly during those long, summer dry spells.” Fortunately, more and more producers in Iowa are farming with systems to build soil health, Bednarek


McDowell & Sons Contractors

said. “Using a suite of conservation practices, like no-till, nutrient management and cover crops, they’re keeping living plants in the soil as long as possible and they’re keeping the soil surface covered with residue year round,” he said. According to Bednarek, the benefits of improved soil health extend beyond the farm. “Producers who improve the health of their soil are also increasing its water-holding capacity, which reduces runoff that can cause flooding. Improved infiltration keeps nutrients and sediment from being carried off-site into nearby lakes, rivers, and streams,” he said. Producers interested in learning more about the basics and benefits of soil health or receiving technical and financial assistance to implement a soil health management system can contact their local NRCS office. Additional soil health information is available at

53 years

Sign up now for CRP


s soon as temperatures warm, Iowa farmers will be out in their fields, which means most will be working nonstop. As a result of congressional delays, said Traci Bruckner, spokeswoman for the Center for Rural Affairs, those farmers who want to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program are going to be squeezed to get it done before the busy spring planting time.

“The thing we are worried about is that the deadline, the cutoff for getting in their basic application form, will come at the busiest time of year for farmers,” she said. “We’re encouraging people to go in there now and sign up.” Bruckner said Congress failed to fund many programs in the Farm Bill when it was extended, so now it’s hard for farmers to figure out which programs are still active and which ones aren’t.

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Practical AG safety


ural Health and Safety Clinic (RHSC) of Greater Johnson County is rolling out its Practical Ag Safety Solutions program to area farmers. This program is in conjunction with Iowa State University College of Design’s Industrial Design Department. “We fundamentally believe Farmers know the risks on their farms

better than anyone.” Said Andy Winborn, program manager at RHSC. “The core of Practical Ag Safety Solutions is going to farms, doing a walk through with the owners and workers and asking them what safety concerns they have. We want to get a good feel of what jobs are being done, how they do it, and what equipment they are using. We gather

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that information to fully understand their safety concerns for later in the process. “While we are prepared to recommend some solutions on the spot, we feel most concerns will need further research. That’s where the Ag Safety Design Team (ASDT) at Iowa State University (ISU) comes in. They help us creatively develop usable solutions, then refine the solutions into practical, cost-effective prototypes. “RHSC take these prototypes back to the farm for on-farm evaluation and testing. In this step, changes are made to further refine the best solution for that farmer. This program is in development so there is no cost to the farmers. This is an exciting program that puts farmers in direct control of the safety on their farm,” Winborn said.


Wetland conservation compliance at stake


ccording to John R. Whitaker, state executive director for USDA’s Iowa Farm Service Agency (FSA) in order to receive payments from USDA, compliance with Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) provisions remain in effect this year. With the one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, “Farmers are reminded to follow tillage, crop residue, and rotation requirements as specified in their conservation systems. Producers should notify their local FSA office prior to conducting any land clearing, including tree moval or drainage projects to insure compliance,” said Whitaker. Persons who produce an agricultural commodity on a field(s) where highly erodible soil is predominant; are eligible for USDA program benefits unless it has been determined by NRCS that an acceptable conservation system is not being actively applied.

To schedule a walk through, contact Andy Winborn at the RHSC by calling 319-936-5854 or email and visit


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May 15, 2013 • Section C

for more information.

Under the Wetland Conservation (WC) Provisions, persons are ineligible for USDA program benefits if they plant an agricultural commodity on a wetland that was converted after Dec. 23, 1985, or if they convert a wetland after Nov. 28, 1990, by draining dredging, filing, leveling or any other means for the purpose, or to have the effect, of making the production of an agricultural commodity possible. According to Whitaker, last summer’s drought conditions may have affected required seeding that was needed to remain in compliance. These stands could be thin or didn’t have the expected germination. Those in this situation, should consult with their local NRCS about applying for a variance, so that eligibility for payments can be protected. Much of the acreage that has been offered into CRP was eligible because the land was highly erodible. Producers should review their conservation plan or discuss their


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conservation systems with NRCS before former CRP acreage is converted back to agricultural production. If planting or field tillage has encroached into the boundaries of the CRP acreage, the contract is in non-compliance and subject to termination or penalty.

Wondering what to do with those cicadas? Eat’em! By Jeff Forward


hile it is doubtful that the 17-year Brood II cicada invasion expected to hit the East Coast and Northeastern United States will reach Iowa, one never knows how Mother Nature works. If we do happen to get an invasion of the pesky, noisy 2-inch long insects, it’s likely that there will be too many for their natural predators to make a dent in the population. That’s where we come in. Yep, we humans can eat cicadas, too. In fact, the insect is well known throughout history as being a great source of protein. Now, I’m not saying to go out and plop one into your mouth and crunch away. No. You’ve got to incorporate them into a recipe and make them tasty! Fortunately, there are lots of cicada recipes that can be found online. Included in those are tasty dishes such as German chocolate cake, a cicada-portobello mushroom quiche, cicada granola chews and the list goes on. The key – according to most of these cicada chefs – is to get young cicadas that have not developed a hardened outer shell yet. Then, of course, you’ll want to cook them somehow. Sauteeing them in butter seems popular – after all anything cooked in butter is good; or you can dry them a bit in the oven then crush them into a powdery flourlike consistency and add to anything. If you’re interested in eating some cicadas, just go online and do a Web search for cicada recipes. You’ll find more than you imagined.


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