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Lots of readers have asked for a story on the USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). As currently described, the program will electronically track every farm animal in the U.S. by 2009. Its first phase of premises registration is already legally under way in every state. Who wants this system? Who declares "No NAIS"? Who will pay for it? Is NAIS a common-sense agrobio-security step or the death-knell of small-scale animal agriculture? Explore with us.

DRY TIMES: It’s officially “abnormally dry” in Pennsylvania and the whole East Coast from Maine to Florida, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The U.S. mid-section has it much worse, with the “exceptional drought” in south Texas getting slightly less damaging west through Arizona, northwest into Wyoming and north-northeast through Illinois.

Spring without rain is an unsettling experience, one that tempers hope and diminishes options for crops and livestock innovations. Farmers in our stories on organic hay emphasize that these are the times when communication between those who have and those who need is even more important.

An expanding number of organic cows geared for grazing are looking for high-quality, long-stemmed forage in the off-season. Organic feed infrastructure is developing on the fly as feed businesses see opportunities to link expanding organic herds and flocks with the feed they need. Long-distance, fossil-fueled transport of organic feed is nobody’s idea of sustainable, but seems to be part of the transition until on-farm, local and regional balance develops.

TALKING POINTS: As the official USDA organic program and the farms it certifies evolve, farmers find new things to appreciate and dislike, depending on their values, farm size, personalities, marketing programs, and lots more variables.

We captured two farmer declarations on a market-farming email list that highlight contrasting conclusions on the best way to carry out the hopes of the historic “little o” organic movement. Both writers refer to Certified Naturally Grown, one of several labels that has emerged to serve farmers who feel the USDA program isn’t right for them, and one of many eco-labels that brand agricultural products with some sustainable attribute in the marketplace. This is a squabble between allies, which seems to make it even more heartfelt.

Grazing standards will be high on the agenda of the National Organic Standards Board at next week’s meeting in State College, Pennsylvania. See our news for details and the path to testimony already filed.

That’s our news.

Read on!
Greg Bowman
Online Editor

Fresh today from The New Farm®

Export-fueled national animal ID program raises many farmer objections
Costly “mark for the beast” idea fails to address livestock health or meat contamination while adding crushing burdens and risks, campaigning opponents maintain.

Dairy demand pushes market for organic hay in Upper Midwest, Northeast
Grass-blends most favored by cows boost trust in RFQ ratings by the farmers who feed them.

Eastern farmers stitch organic infrastructure for hay on the fly
Local and regional networks stretched by spot demand from weather extremes; goal is still on-farm balance of forage and livestock.

Organic farming, done well, needs the right label
Wendy Baroli and Beth Spaugh
Two farmers ponder their choices to become USDA Certified Organic or use an alternative label.

Help! When and how to hire it.
Jim Crawford and Mike Brownback, with nearly 70 years of farming between them, discuss the necessity of hiring help right from the start and how becoming (or not becoming) an employer affects your entire operation.

Money for nothing? There’s no such thing.
If you want to apply for a producer grant, you need a solid business plan and the wherewithal to see your idea through.

Reader Mail
You ask, we answer. Questions from all of you answered by all our expert contacts; from Jeff Moyer (our farm manager) to worm gurus, to other farmers.

News & Views
Farmers demand real grazing rules... Manure study links antibiotics to veggies...More farm subsidies go to big operations... NE-SARE awards biodiesel training, soil quality testing...Small-scale poultry primer on avian flu...Guide collects farmers’ market programs.

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