Monday, April 11, 2011

F is for Farm Bill

Every five years or so, national food, nutrition, and farm priorities are debated and set with omnibus policy and appropriations legislation know as The Farm Bill.

And, the process is already under way as the fiscal year 2011 budget debate rages with a government shutdown barely avoided this past week.

Over the coming weeks, I will be posting more about the current and upcoming Farm Bill debates and sustainable agriculture issues an priorities and ways YOU can get involved. For now, here's a run down of the current Farm Bill.

The farm bill encompasses a lot!

There are currently 15 titles in the Farm Bill:

I. Commodities – wheat, feed grains, cotton, rice, oilseeds, peanuts, sugar, and dairy. Direct payments, counter-cyclical payments, and marketing loans. The government also supports commodities with purchases of dairy and marketing quotas and import barriers for sugar. $8.3 billion per year.

II. Conservation – farmland conservation, preservation, and protection. $4.8 billion per year.

III. Agricultural Trade andFood Aid – Agricultural exports and international food assistance programs. $400 million per year.

IV. Nutrition – Domestic food and nutrition and commodity distribution programs, aka SNAP - supplemental nutrition assistance program. $38 billion per year.

V. Farm Credit – Federal direct and guaranteed farm loan programs. (FARMER-MAC).

VI. Rural Development – Business and community planning and feasibility assessments and coordination activities with local, state, and federal programs, including rural broadband access.

VII. Research – Agriculture research and extension programs including bio-security and response, biotechnology, and organic production.

VIII. Forestry – USDA forest service programs, including forestry management, enhancement, and agro-forestry.

IX. Energy – Bio-energy programs and grants for procurement of biobased products to support development of biorefineries and assist eligible farmers and rural small businesses in purchasing renewable energy systems as well as user education programs.

X. Horticulture and Organic Agriculture – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers fruit, vegetables, and other specialty crops (food) and organic agriculture.

XI. Livestock – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers livestock and poultry production, including provisions that amend existing laws governing livestock and poultry marketing and competition, country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for retailers, and meat and poultry state inspections, among other provisions.

XII. Crop Insurance and disaster assistance – (new title in 2008 bill)

XIII. Commodity futures – (new title in 2008 bill) Covers reauthorization of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and other changes to current law.

XIV. Miscellaneous – Other types of programs not covered by other titles, including provisions to assist limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and agricultural security, among others.

XV. Trade and Tax provisions - (new title in 2008 bill) Covers tax-related provisions intended to offset spending initiatives for some programs including those in nutrition, conservation, and energy titles. This title also contains other provisions, including the new supplemental disaster assistance and disaster relief trust fund, and other tax-related provisions such as customs user fees.

What does is Cost?

The estimated 5 year cost of the 2008 farm bill is $284 billion.

An overwhelming amount (97%) of that is spent on four titles:

Nutrition - 67%

Commodity Support payments – 15%

Conservation – 9%

Crop Insurance – 8%

Sunday, April 10, 2011

E is for Eggs.

Well, it's mid-April.

The sun is shining, the air is warmer, the grass is greener, and the hens are busier, much busier.
A little over a month ago, we were picking at most seven dozen eggs a week. Short winter days, inclement weather, and the inevitable seasonality of eggs from free-ranging hens not forced into a year round "production model" had imposed its annual respite.

I don't know why, but it's always a little alarming when egg production crashes. Even though it's expected and happens every year, I still wonder if this is the time that the hen's vacation will be permanent. I guess we're not that far removed from the ancients who feared that winter's cycle might not end.

Fortunately, the season has changed and the ladies are done with their rest – we're currently collecting over twenty dozen eggs a day. In addition to laying a bunch of eggs, the hens are GRAZING. With the green and bugs and worms now in their diet, the hens are eating a quarter less grain than they did a month ago, while laying 20 times as many eggs.



Also, the yolks are much more orange than they were just a couple of weeks ago. We think this is a good thing. Many satisfied customers and members of our Meat CSA, agree as they rave about our eggs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

D is for democracy

On Wednesday the Osmunds traveled to Springfield for Local Food Awareness Day sponsored by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) -

Over 30 local food advocates from throughout the state converged mid-morning on Pasfield House ( just a short walk from the capitol building. After introductions, Lindsay Record and Wes King of ISA taught us "Lobbying 101." Next, we joined our lobbying team and pored over lists of senators and representatives we wanted to see and plotted our stategy while deciphering maps of the Capitol and Stratton office building.

Fortified by lunch, prepared with talking points, loaded with information packets, and stocked with heirloom seed packets (thoughtfully donatated by Baker Creek Seeds ( , we walked to the capitol.

Once through the security screening, we were set to spread the word about local foods.

A slight hiccup (and an explicit sign that more citizen lobbying is needed) ocurred when a capital police officer asked "Who's your lobbyist?"

Beth replied, "We're all lobbyists - citizen lobbyists."

"Ma'am, I don't think you understood my question" he replied rather pointedly.

Wes showed him his lobbyist id and quickly smoothed things over, but this dismissive attitude toward citizen participation in government was galvinizing.

We didn't speak with any representatives as they were in session; but we visited each of their offices and left our materials with their secretaries and staffers.

Onto the sentate! We did meet with our 38th District senator Sue Rezin (

Richard Osmund, Duncan Osmund, Senator Rezin, Beth Osmund, Jack Osmund, and Jody Osmund

After a visit to the gallery to watch some of the house proceedings with the boys, we regrouped at the ISA offices.

We hydrated with ice water, had the boys run off some steam in the yard, and enjoyed some quiet after the noisome capital, before heading back to the capitol for our meeting with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon (

Our group of local food advocates from throughout the state discussed how Simon could use the bully pulpit of her office to further our efforts to build a local food economy in Illinois.

(Lt. Governor Simon with Beth and Jack Osmund)

(Simon, Deborah Cananaugh-Grant, & Dayna Conner)

(Wes King of ISA pulls out our lobbying materials – including a packet of seeds.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

B is for Bringing it home.

April 1st – Beth travels to Whitewater, WI to purchase and bring home a 38' * 40' * 15' tension fabric building – in boxes, loaded on our flatbed trailer. Once erected, the new building will house our layer hens with room to add more hens later this season. Construction will begin later this week.

While Beth was traveling, Jody was interviewed for another article on sustainable farming with a reporter with Gatehouse Media which will be published in papers across the country.

This Wednesday, the whole family will travel to Springfield, IL for the Local Foods Lobby Day & a meeting with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon to discuss local food and sustainable farming.


A is for Already Late

In February, it seemed like doing a daily A to Z blog challenge would be fun and make a lot of sense in promoting the farm. Of course, spring tends to get busy around here and without any pre-written entries, we're already late.

Hmmm, how did that happen?

Well, March began with a full calendar. Just back from the country's largest organic and sustainable conference (MOSES) in La Crosse, WI (with a side trip to rally with public employees in Madison); March began with a trip to Midway to pick up our oldest. Richard had spent two weeks visiting his grandparents in Texas. If you're a CSA member you probably know Richard as Jody's helper on some deliveries.

The next day, Jody traveled to Springfield for a meeting of the Illinois Local, Food, Farms, and Jobs Council (ILFFJC). Next was the Illinois Stewardship Alliance's (ISA) Grassroots Policy Committee regional meeting – hosted by the greenfarmers network at Growing Home farm in Marseilles, IL. That takes us up to the third day of the month.

It seems that March accelerated from there. Highlights include:

CVSF sponsoring a soccer team in Mendota and Jody coaching, Richard in the junior high division.

Beth agreeing to participate on a grant review panel – including several days in D.C. in April.

Jody speaking to the Illinois (river) Headwaters Rural Conservation & Development meeting in Bourbonnais.

Attending two benefits. One benefit was to purchase supplies for a school in Kenya that a local friend helped to build. The other was to help with the medical expenses for the father of one of our summer helpers who is battling stomach cancer – CVSF donated grill packages for auction.

Teaching Meat CSA Marketing, Production, & Management at Michael Fields Agriculture Institute in East Troy, WI.

Organizing/Attending a farmer field trip to the Butcher and Larder in Chicago, so we could see how an artisan butcher breaks down a side of pork into saleable cuts.

Meeting with a potential investor in CVSF.

Answering questions for an upcoming Progressive Farmer magazine article on farmers who sell directly to consumers (national scope).

Consulting to other CSA farmers on branding and marketing as part of the Angelic Organics Learning Center's technical assistance pool.

Delivering CSA meat shares to nearly 300 families.

Whew! Hey there's only 30 days in April, one less day to schedule.