Whole-Farm Revenue Protection is Here

Hey check out USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) crop insurance prograRMAm which is now available in all states in the lower 48 for the 2016 crop year. The policy allows producers to insure between 50 to 85 percent of their whole farm revenue and makes crop insurance more affordable for producers, including fruit and vegetable growers and organic farmers and ranchers. Appealing aspects of this program include the fact that it rewards on-farm diversity and this is important because you get what you pay for. This could finally bring crop insurance in line with stewardship goals.

WFRP coverage

We need to transition from a safety net approach that is not protecting the wealth of our soil. We are paying for it so let’s get it right. Subsidization of crop insurance by the government has increased participation rates greatly in recent years. According to a USDA report by O’Donoghue, in Illinois, coverage of corn and soybean acreages increased from about 20-30% coverage rates observed in the 1990s to 80% coverage rates by 2012. Participation rates in colder areas (IA,MN, ND), which were always higher, increased from about 50-60% coverage to over 90% coverage of corn and soybean during that period.

Modest crop insurance options have been in place since the 1930s to cover farmers’ losses from bad weather or pests. New crops and insurance products were added over the years but enrollment did not begin to grow until the Federal Crop Insurance Act of 1980 required crop insurance to be sold and serviced by the private sector and encouraged this through premium subsidies and government payment of insurance company delivery costs. This made crop insurance extremely lucrative for farmers and insurance providers alike. Revenue based policies grew in use as a result of the Federal Crop Insurance Reform Act of 1994, which reduced the level of protection provided by farm programs and added requirements to have crop insurance in order to be eligible for ad hoc disaster payments. Modifications made between 1996 and through the 2008 Farm Bill established Crop insurance as an attractive option for farmers and ranchers to manage risk and ensure an ample and stable U.S. food, fiber, feed and fuel supply under the management of USDA’s Risk Management Agency in a partnership with 15 private insurance companies. Beginning in 1996, this multi-billion dollar program asked taxpayers to pick up about 60 percent of farmers’ premiums and cover about 18 percent of insurance companies’ operating costs without requiring conservation compliance.

The program has been popular with high participation and coverage levels being skewed toward larger farms that are incentivized to maximize production. Recall, since the enactment of the 1985 Farm Bill, eligibility for most commodity, disaster, and conservation programs had been linked to compliance with the highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation provisions. Critics have noted that 2012 payments which were some of the highest payments in history, were even more costly than the direct payments they replace. The $9 billion a year subsidy overcompensates farmers and insurers and has had negative consequences for the environment. The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, began to address this with several key amendments related to crop insurance (Reducing insurance premium subsidies for farmers earning more than $750,000; requiring conservation compliance of participants, and paying organic farmers at organic rather than conventional prices in the event of disaster insurance payments). Additional changes made in the 2014 Farm Bill will hopefully set us on a path that will no longer subsidize ‘socialized losses and privatized gains’.

The WFRP is a new risk management option, available on a pilot basis in 2015, that might align crop insurance programs with conservation goals and help us recover from some missteps that proved to be disastrous for our soil and water resources. It might also help the little guys and gals get a piece of the subsidy pie. While fewer than 600 producers enrolled in the pilot year of the WFRP program, I am hoping that modest participation in the Midwest might grow from the 26 in Indiana, 14 in Illinois, six in Wisconsin, and the 2 participants enrolled in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri.

Whole farm revenue protection combined the popular Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGRLite) programs to expand the range of coverage levels, coverage for replanting, provisions that increase coverage for expanding operations, offer a higher maximum amount of coverage and the inclusion of market readiness costs in the coverage. The policy requires growers to insure a variety of crops at once instead of one commodity at a time. This encourages rather than discourages crop diversity and helps support the production of a wider variety of foods on the landscape. Eligible farms can make up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities (both crops and livestock (this has a $1 million cap)).

For more about this new program check out the RMA website (http://www.rma.usda.gov/policies/wfrp.html) and see NCAT’s “Primer on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) Crop Insurance: Updates for Producers in 2016” at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/download.php?id=501.



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New report on poverty and food workers by the Berkeley Food Institute

Poverty workersLaurel Fletcher, Saru Jayaraman, and Allison Davenport have just published a report, “Working Below the Line: How the Subminimum Wage for Tipped Restaurant Workers Violates International Human Rights Standards” that documents significant human rights deprivations for low-wage tipped workers in the U.S. restaurant industry. Read the report here.

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OSU ppThis is an Assistant Professor (Practice) requiring a Minimum MS (Phd preferred) in Crop Science, Agronomy, Soils, Horticulture, or closely related field.
The successful applicant would:
“Provide consultation and educational programs and materials addressing scale appropriate technology for organic/biological and conventional farming systems consistent with clientele goals. A potential programmatic emphasis for this position is forages and pasture management as they interface with grass-based livestock systems, specialty grains and other agronomic crops appropriate for small scale production, weed control and nutrient management. Conduct demonstrations and appropriate applied research of interest to beginning and experienced farmers, such as, but not limited to, variety trials, equipment demonstrations, sustainable agriculture methods, etc.”
Efforts are  expected to:
“Contribute to regional food system efforts with a focus on small-scale, sustainable and organic farm and food businesses.
Activities may include but are not limited to:
–Identify economic development opportunities related to small-scale production and processing to add value to locally grown foods and the development of new markets to consumers and retail food services.
–Engage with community-based organizations to support innovation and entrepreneurship within local and regional food systems.
–Provide technical assistance on production, marketing, processing, distribution, regulatory compliance, business planning and viability, and other elements of long-term sustainability for new small-scale, farm-direct food businesses. “
The position is in collaboration with the Oregon State University Small Farms Program (http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu)  which is part of the Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems). It is a 0.75 FTE extension faculty position with opportunities for full time employment (funding is recurring) located in Salem, Oregon.  This is in the mid-Willamette Valley of western Oregon and is about 60 minutes south of Portland. The OSU Small Farms program focuses on organic/biological/sustainable approaches to farming and enhancement of local/regional food systems.
The stated goal of the program is “to change the world”.
Apply by January 3, 2016


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Local Foods for Institutional Buyers

Upcoming workshop on campus (free and open to public)

tomsLocal Foods for Institutional Buyers
Monday, November 16, 2015 | 8am-4pm
Student Dining and Residential Programs Building Multipurpose Rooms
301 Gregory Drive, Champaign

Hosted by University of Illinois Dining Services
Contact: Dawn Aubrey, Associate Director of Housing for Dining Services
daubrey@illinois.edu | www.housing.illinois.edu

The workshop is designed to introduce producers, processors, distributors, educators and institutions. The workshop will address navigating the state procurement system by addressing the why, the what and the how for local producers, local processors and the institutional buyer. The state of Illinois has a plentiful history of food production and processing. The University of Illinois Dining is committed to increasing the amount of locally produced and processed foods. Local food tastes good and supports the local economy while supporting sustainability.

The capacity and biodiversity of food will need to change. The Illinois General Assembly passed the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act stating that 20% of food purchased by state agencies will be products grown, processed, packaged and distributed by Illinois citizens or businesses located within the state by 2020.

Enjoy a day of learning, networking and enlightenment.


LocationStudent Dining and Residential Programs Building Multipurpose Rooms; 301 Gregory Drive, Champaign
Registration: https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/4203687 (Please register now for the workshop)
Parking and shuttle busView Bus Route from Lot E-14 to Ikenberry SDRP

Parking is available in the Shuttle Lot E14. The lot is located to the west of the State Farm Center, across First Street. Please park on the south side of the blue line. The 10 E Gold bus and the 1 N Yellow arrive at the north kiosk every 10 minutes. The same buses will return you to E14 following the meeting (10W and 1S). The return bus stop for E14 is on the opposite side of Gregory Street from your earlier point of egress. The SDRP (Student Dining & Residential Program building) is also called Ikenberry.

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Food Day U of I 2015

fdayWanted to remind folks that the Students for Sustainability http://ssc.union.illinois.edu/ are meeting for a potluck to celebrate Food Day.  This will be in Murphy Lounge, Campus YMCA 1001 S. Wright Street from 3.30 to 6.00 PM.  The day will take October 24 as a day to “resolve to make changes in our own diets and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level.” http://www.foodday.org/  This year’s Food Day  theme is “Toward a Greener Diet.”  This is not to be confused with World food day, whics is celebrated on October 16 to celebrate the day the Food and Agriculture Organization  was founded  in 1945 by 43 member countries to address world hunger and malnutrition http://www.fao.org/world-food-day/history/en/.   Of course the two are connected.    Hope to see you at this glocal event!  Please bring something vegan or veg to share or provide a small donation.


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Symposium on American Food Resilience (Part 1) released

Part 1 of the Symposium on American Food Resilience (13 articles) has now been published in the September issue of the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (http://link.springer.com/journal/13412/5/3/page/1#page-1).  Part 2 (14 articles) will be in the December issue.

The entire collection is exciting in the diversity of its coverage, as experts on various aspects of the food system draw upon their disparate perspectives to throw light on a single high-stakes theme – the security of our food supply. A major goal of the Symposium is to frame this theme in a way that points to what scientists, teachers, and other professionals can do through research, education, community action, or other means to make the food system more resilient.

Description of the Symposium on American Food Resilience

The resilience of our food system is declining as global demand for food approaches limits for sustainable production. Difficult-to-predict disturbances such as severe influenza pandemic or large-scale crop failure could disrupt food production or distribution severely enough to set in motion a breakdown of food supply. The risk of serious shortfalls, whether on a local scale or larger scale, shorter period or longer period, is of genuine concern. Cities are particularly vulnerable. Decline in food storage throughout the system has eroded the capacity to buffer perturbations.

It’s difficult to get a clear grip on this topic because the food system is so complex, and failure could take forms never seen before. It’s easy for wishful thinking to prevail, but the stakes are high. The Symposium on American Food Resilience addresses the following questions:

  • What are the main lines of vulnerability in the food system?
  • What are leverage points for reducing the risks and improving the capacity to cope with breakdowns?
  • What is already being done by government, civil society, and the private sector to reduce the risks?
  • What can scientists, teachers, and other professionals do through research, education, community action, or other means to make the food system more resilient?

The following are titles of the articles in the Symposium on American Food Resilience (Part 1 and Part 2):

Continue reading

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National Inst of Food and Ag is hiring a Plant Systems Scientist

National Institute of Food and Agriculture   Institute of Food Production and Sustainability   Division of Plant Systems – Production   Biological Science Specialist (National Program Leader (Agronomy))

Closing date:  Thursday, September 17, 2015

Vacancy Announcement Number:  NIFA-S15N-0043 is open to all U.S. Citizens.  You may use the following link to view/apply for this position:


This is an exciting opportunity for someone with expertise in production agriculture in general or weed science, precision agriculture, big data etc.  The closing date is Sept 17 so potential applicants should initiate their application process as soon as possible.

For addition questions, please contact Mary Peet (mpeet@nifa.usda.gov, 202-401-4202) or any of us from the Plant Systems-Production Division. Salary range is $90,823 to $158,700/year with the potential to hire at grade 13, 14, or 15.

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Tom Vilsack at UIUC September 10th

Start getting your questions ready. On September 10th, our Department of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences will welcome Tom Vilsack to speak on “The role of public research universities in addressing international food security.”

We’d like to encourage folks to turn out for this event – and come prepared with some challenging questions. While over his time in the USDA Vilsack has made some encouraging gestures toward food justice (including acknowledging the history of institutionalized racism in the USDA), in other ways it’s clear that he’s firmly in the pocket of corporate agri-business.

A selection of his positions include:
• Opposition to the inclusion of sustainability considerations in the drafting of nutritional guidelines
Playing polyanna on bird flu, and ignoring the systemic problems of this latest outbreak is but a symptom (while at the same time, recent reports suggest that under Vilsack’s watch, Cargill may be about to receive clearance to export poultry from China to the US)
And in general and overall, consistently advocating for corporate agri-business, against science, against the environment, and against the people’s right to know what’s on their plates.

Get your questions ready, and hope to see you there!

Event Details:

Thursday, September 10, 2015
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. with a reception to follow
Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana

Tom Vilsack serves as the Nation’s 30th Secretary of Agriculture. As leader of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Vilsack is working hard to strengthen the American agricultural economy, build vibrant rural communities and create new markets for the tremendous innovation of rural America. In more than six years at the Department, Vilsack has worked to implement President Obama’s agenda to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last. USDA has supported America’s farmers, ranchers and growers who are driving the rural economy forward, provided food assistance to millions of Americans, carried out record conservation efforts, made record investments in our rural communities and helped provide a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply for the American people.

Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served two terms as the Governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.


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Upcoming Events with the Savanna Institute

The Savanna Institute has a great lineup of field days and workshop coming up. Check out the flyers below and visit their events page for more info!



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5-Year PhD project on Local Food at University of Maine

The University of Maine is hiring a PhD student to serve a central role in a new five-year research project funded by the National Science Foundation on cooperation in the local food industry. Topically, the project focuses on uncovering patterns of cooperation within and between the organizations that make up the local food industry in Maine and Northeast. The student will perform this research through quantitative models and statistical analysis of the evolution of human culture and cooperation. The assistantship is designed for students with strong quantitative, analytical and communication skills who are interested in developing our understanding the dynamics of human behavior, cooperation, culture and organizational evolution as they pertain to environmental management.

The graduate student will work with Dr. Waring to conduct behavioral experiments, collect and analyze survey data, build and test new theoretical models, and to participate in outreach endeavors in the local food sector in Maine and beyond. The position is intended to prepare a PhD with expertise in social-ecological systems, and evolutionary approaches to human behavior, with a focus on environmental management and local food.

The assistantship is supported by the primarily by the National Science Foundation, as well as the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions and the School of Economics. The Mitchell Center pursues an integrative research program with strong stakeholder partnerships to generate improved solutions to intersecting ecological, social, and economic challenges in and beyond Maine.

A degree (prefer masters) in ecology, evolution or environmental science, economics, anthropology, sociology, social psychology or a related field; excellent GPA and GRE scores; strong quantitative, analytical and communication skills; programming experience; research experience; mature, organized, professional and courteous, and the ability to work independently and in collaborative teams. Support includes a fellowship of $22-25,000/yr for four years, a tuition waiver, and a subsidy for health insurance.

Application Procedures:
Contact Dr. Waring by email: timothy.waring@maine.edu, with subject line “Cooperation in Local Food Doctoral Assistantship.”

Please include:
1.  A letter detailing your interest in this position,
2.  A CV or resume,
3.  Scanned GRE scores and transcripts,
4.  Names, phone numbers, and email addresses of three references.

Review of materials will continue until the position is filled.

Tim Waring
Assistant Professor, School of Economics
Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, University of Maine
phone: (207) 581-3157, fax: (207) 581-4278

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