7 ag stories you may have missed - Nov. 12, 2021

Agritourism, solar power and turkeys dominate this week’s headlines.

Kristy Foster Seachrist, Digital editor

November 12, 2021

7 Min Read
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It's been a busy week, but the news has some stories you may want to check out!

Indiana to be home to the largest U.S. solar farm, 1,000 times the size of a football stadium

This will be the last year that Norm Welker and his family harvests corn. But Welker will still be a farmer — he’s going to farm the sun. 

“We’ve always harnessed the sun, and have enough sun to grow a corn crop,” said 62-year-old Welker. “But now, we are harvesting it far more efficiently than we’ve ever done before.” 

Welker is not alone: He is one of dozens of neighbors who are leasing their land for what will be the largest solar farm in the United States. At 13,000 acres — roughly 1,000 times the size of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts — it is aptly named the Mammoth Solar project.

Check out more details on USA Today.

This farmer lets cattle act the way nature intended. See what the results are.

South African farmer Danie Slabbert says it’s not what people eat, it’s how they farm, that matters to the environment. He doesn’t use fertilizes or chemicals in his pastures. He depends on his cattle herd to do what they do best to help with the environment.

Check out this story from CNN, here.

New mobile app for agritourism

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has announced a new mobile app to connect consumers with agritourism venues. Launching next spring, Foundation Education Outreach Director Julia Recko says the American Farm Trail app will help consumers learn more about where their food comes from. Through the app, consumers will be able to search for agritourism locations near them. When they find one on the app, there's listed information about that agritourism location.

Tourists can be prepared when they get there to have a fun experience where they're seeing how their food is grown, maybe even picking some for themselves, and just learning more about agriculture in their area.

The AFBF is looking for agritourism and tour locations to sign up on the American Farm Trail app. Farmers and ranchers interested in being listed on the app can set up a profile now. Learn more from American Farum Bureau Federation at farmtrailapp.com.

East Tennessee farmers invest in agritourism as consumers spend in 'experience economy'

Windy Hill Farm's once lifeless pastures are now lush with tall native grasses. Soon, the farm will be a destination for tourists looking for an immersive outdoors experience in East Tennessee. 

As consumers crave more knowledge about where their food comes from and seek local and regional travel experiences, Windy Hill Hospitality LLC has announced a $10 million investment to turn Windy Hill Farm and Preserve into a year-round, all-inclusive boutique resort, while remaining a working farm. And the farm isn’t alone.

Exclusive resorts in the area such as Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain, the Loudon farm and other East Tennessee farms continue to invest in the agritourism industry. 

"I think people want to be in open spaces, and learn about those open spaces, and invest in a true experience rather than just an empty vacation," said Steve Brewington, general manager of Windy Hill Farms. His family owns the farm. 

Check out the story on Knox News here.

Fresh Turkey Farm preps for big day

In the past, business has been steady for Copley's Fresh Farm out in Waterford. Not only do they have turkeys for the Thanksgiving season,  but sell chicken and eggs to local restaurants and grocery stores too. The demand for Thanksgiving turkeys since last year has doubled. Danielle Copley runs this operation out in Waterford. She says they could've doubled the supply going into last year, but waited to see what the demand would be like for Thanksgiving 2021. As of now, at Copley's they're just about sold out of Thanksgiving turkeys.

"We have a few turkeys left, we have about 12 turkeys left out of the 120. I don't know if we're going to have any the week of Thanksgiving. I would think by the end of this week and end of next week they'll all be spoken for or sold," says Copley. 

They prep for Thanksgiving turkeys at Copley's starting in July. 

"We're at 120 turkeys this year," says Copley. 

That's double the amount of turkeys at Copley's Fresh Farm that they had last year.

"We sold out last year before we even hit November, so we knew there was a demand for more Thanksgiving center pieces," explains Copley. 

Check out the story from Erie News Now here.

Farmers, farm workers argue against lowering overtime threshold

Farmers and politicians gathered at Rulfs Orchard to advocate for maintaining the 60-hour overtime threshold for farmworkers and voice concerns about how lowering it could make New York's producers less competitive in both the labor and commodities markets.

Later this year, the state Wage Board is slated to revisit the threshold set by the 2019 Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act and determine whether it should be adjusted to 40 hours.

Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance Executive Director Rick Zimmerman told the Press-Republican after the press conference that farmers are required to pay their workers overtime for any hours worked on involuntary rest days. Since they are unwilling and unable to do so, farmworkers who want to work those days lose out, he explained.

Cutting that down to 40 hours would be a negative situation for many farm workers, and that possibility has already led to discussions about seeking work in another state.

Adirondack Farms CFO Joanna Lidback shared statistics from a report by Farm Credit East, a lending institution that works with the agriculture industry, which showed lowering the threshold would increase labor expenses by about 17% in New York State.

When added to the projected minimum wage increase, those costs are expected to go up by $264 million annually, or 42%.

“Cutting into the financial viability of a farm may cause some farms to make the unfortunate decision to cease operations and we all know that that could have a ripple effect in the farms’ communities, not just in terms of economics but also environmental," she said.

For more details check out the entire story here.

And one more story worth a double look this week:

Senators reach compromise on cattle market bill

Senators reached a compromise on measures they see as improving the cattle market this week. It combines components of previously introduced bills in their new Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act as Congress works towards reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting set to expire Dec. 3, 2021.

Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Ron Ryden, D-Ore., say they plan to introduce the act in the coming days that addresses many of the concerns troubling the cattle industry plagued with a disparity between what producers are receiving and prices at the retail level. After introducing previous cattle marketing legislation and soliciting feedback from stakeholders in the cattle industry, all four legislators have identified common ground. 

In brief, this legislation will enhance price discovery and transparency by requiring packers to participate in the cash market on a plant-by-plant basis within each major cattle feeding region; creating a library of formula contracts; and expediting the report of average carcass weights to the public. It also requires a cost benefit analysis after two years to ensure the program is working as intended.

For more details, check out the story here

Have a great weekend and stay safe!

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