• Policy briefs: Farm bill and tobacco buyout payments

    Congressional agricultural leadership and farm bill conferees have been meeting over the past several weeks to discuss the differences in the House and Senate farm bills.

    Despite some progress, a lack of consensus on key items (nutrition and commodity title reform) is jeopardizing the completion of the farm bill as we head into the Thanksgiving break.    

    Complicating the process is the level of budget savings that must evolve from agricultural and food nutrition programs (primarily SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). 

  • 4-H news for the holidays

    Last week, I wrote about families spending time together, and one way was to be creative while cooking together in the kitchen.

    Another way is to decorate together for the holidays, whatever your tradition might be.  

    Over Thanksgiving, I experienced visiting a farm market that sells fresh greenery and beautiful trees with my family.  Just getting out in the countryside and seeing live trees and wreaths made me appreciate the approaching holiday season.  

  • Make Thanksgiving about the family

    Thanksgiving can be a positive time of year, when families enjoy being together and sharing quality time.  

    Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the coming holiday season though, the opportunity of taking the time to do things as a family is passed by.  

    Since the holidays are times we think of baking, consider spending time cooking together as a family. Especially when it is too cold to play outside, it is time to get creative inside.

  • Caring for amaryllis

    Amaryllis hippeastrum are sold near the holidays because of their ability to flower any time of year.  

    It is a tender bulb that originates from South America.  Its cousin, the belladonna lily — or as we affectionately call it in Kentucky, “Naked Ladies,” or a nicer version, “Resurrection Lily” — is also an amaryllis, which is native to South Africa.  

    Obviously, the version we grow called “Naked Ladies” is hardy, but sadly, the larger-flowered amaryllis is not.   

  • FSA advises producers to anticipate payment reductions due to mandated sequester

    USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding farmers and ranchers who participate in FSA programs to plan accordingly in FY2014 for automatic spending reductions known as sequestration.

    The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) mandates that federal agencies implement automatic, annual reductions to discretionary and mandatory spending limits.

    For mandatory programs, the sequestration rate for FY2014 is 7.2 percent.

    Accordingly, FSA is implementing sequestration for the following programs:

  • It’s time to prepare rose bushes for winter

    We have had temperatures down in the low 20s to burn rose leaves back and to tell them that winter is approaching and they should go dormant.  

    You can now safely cut them back.

    Generally, we are a few weeks later in the season, but this year, we have had significantly colder weather.

    It seems winter is approaching a little early.

    Before you cut your roses back, you need to know what type you have.  

  • Soil tests and pH are important

    I have had numerous people ask me what to fertilize with and how much.

    I often tell them it depends on the plants they are growing and that I can’t give them an accurate recommendation without a soil test. 

    Granted, we don’t test for nitrogen because it is always present and volatile. However timing and amounts to apply are generally constant for particular plants. 

  • Pregnancy checking pays the bills

    This is an article recently sent from a newsletter Off the Hoof and I wanted to share it with you all.

    From a benchmarking perspective, in a “normal” summer breeding season, it should be expected that 90 percent of your mature cowherd will become pregnant within a 63-day breeding season.

  • 4-H’ers will be able to cure country hams locally

    One of the fastest growing projects in Kentucky 4-H is the country ham project. 

    Last year, over 700 youth statewide participated in the program where they learned the traditional way of either salt curing or smoke curing hams. In central and eastern Kentucky, hams are salt cured and then smoke cured in western Kentucky.

  • Hay bale fires still a threat - check stacks, barns for heated bales

    Recent reports of hay bale fires should remind growers to continue to monitor stacks and storage barns.

    Generally, hay fires occur within six weeks after baling, but have been known to occur even after a year. They begin through a process called “spontaneous combustion, which depends on the initial moisture content of the hay, the ease with which moisture can dissipate from the bales and environmental conditions.”

    Hay fires have increased as more growers have switched to large square bales.