New Small Farm Program and A Crop Insurance Update

Posted: November 5, 2010

The Penn State Agricultural Entrepreneurship Natural Working Group has launched a new web site titled A Guide to Farming in Pennsylvania, modeled after Cornell’s A Guide to Farming in New York State.

A Guide to Farming in Pennsylvania contains links to many Penn State sites, where applicable, and outside sites when the need for information dictates. The site includes chapters titled:

  • Pre-Venture
  • Production, which includes:
    • Agronomy
    • Dairy Equipment
    • Horticulture
    • Livestock and Poultry
  • Marketing
  • Value-Added Agriculture
  • Farm Transition
  • Appendix A - Agricultural Alternatives
  • Appendix B - Ag Agency Listing

The Pre-Venture chapter includes many topics about getting started in agricultural production and information about employees and links to the documents needed when hiring. The chapter contains details about business planning, where to find realtors, budgeting and financing for beginning farmers. Many of the laws and regulations governing agriculture in Pennsylvania are covered. The chapter also contains links to I-9 and W-4 forms and Good Agricultural and Good Handling Practices information useful to many tree fruit producers.

Each section under the Production chapter contains information relative to any farm enterprise. The links provide detailed information about production methods, business topics and marketing information for each topic. The area-specific sections will allow users to find the information they seek much quicker than searching the Internet themselves.

The horticulture area contained in the production section contains tree fruit information with links to the Pennsylvania Tree Fruit Production Guide (TFPG), the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC), and the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Adams County site. These links provide easy access to weekly pest updates from FREC or detailed information from the TFPG. The Adams County site contains budgeting information along with pesticide record keeping spreadsheets.

The Marketing chapter contains links to information about market planning, direct marketing and market exchanges. These links cover basic marketing principles while the marketing sections contained in the production chapter contain the details for the specific production areas. A link with a listing of farmer’s markets is also contained within this section. If you are considering selling through farmer’s markets, this link will provide you with potential markets for your operation.

The Farm Transition chapter contains information for those seeking to exit farming or interested in passing the operation to the next generation. Because many of the regulations concerning this topic are state- and farm-specific, this chapter focuses on the steps involved in creating a farm succession plan. It may also be used by those in the business planning process to provide information for their business plan.

Appendix A is a link to the Agricultural Alternatives site which contains publications covering enterprises of interest to farmers in Pennsylvania. Appendix B is a listing of governmental agencies involved with agriculture and organizations supporting farming and rural lifestyles in Pennsylvania. These agencies and organizations are sources of valuable information for new or existing producers.

The Guide to Farming in Pennsylvania site will be used by extension educators to field questions such as “What do I need to do to start a business?” or “I have a few acres and would like some additional income - what should I do?” Anyone considering a new business or enterprise will find a one-stop place for much of the information they require. Current farmers may use the site to easily access production guides and find other crop-specific production and marketing information including market prices for crops and livestock throughout Pennsylvania.

Crop Insurance Update for Pennsylvania

As you may recall, last year various changes to the apple crop insurance policy were being considered. Many of those changes were adopted by the Federal Crop Insurance Commission (FCIC) in early September. These changes include:

Allowing optional units by type. For example, a grower can have an optional unit for fresh apple production and an optional unit for processing apple production.

Allow the apple grower to select different coverage levels for the fresh apple acreage (unit) and the processing apple acreage (unit).

In order to insure apples as fresh market, growers will be required to provide verifiable records to prove that 50% of their fresh apple acreage was sold as fresh apples in one or more of the past four years. Apple growers must also follow recommended cultural practices generally in use for fresh apple production in the county as determined by agricultural experts.

A new section has been added to the policy to state that any apple production not graded prior to sale or storage will be considered as production to count.

These changes may require more documentation and record keeping, but they will provide more flexibility when insuring your apple crop. If you have any questions about how these changes will affect your operation, please speak to your crop insurance agent prior to the November 20 sales closing deadline for fruit crops.

For those growers also producing and insuring field crops, there are several changes to those policies for the upcoming insurance period. The yield protection policies will now use a projected price set by the FCIC and based on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) future prices. This change will also apply to Catastrophic Loss (CAT) policies. Revenue-based crop insurance plans that provide protection against both yield and price risk are available for corn, grain sorghum, soybean, barley and wheat. Two revenue plans are available. The first plan is called “revenue protection” which uses the higher of a projected (early-season) or harvest CBOT futures price to set your revenue guarantee. Under this insurance plan harvest versus early-season projected prices are covered for up to 100% increases and unlimited decreases. The second is called “revenue protection with harvest price exclusion” which for a reduced premium sets your revenue guarantee at the projected early-season price. Please consult your crop insurance salesperson concerning all policy changes affecting your operation.

Contact Information

Lynn Kime
  • Senior Extension Associate
Phone: 717-677-6116
Jayson K. Harper
  • Professor of Agricultural Economics
Phone: 814-863-8638