Consortium stakeholder budget request for USDA-ARS, University Park, PA, and Wyndmoor, PA, e-mailed or delivered to Senators Gregg (NH), Leahy (VT), Santorum (PA), Specter (PA), Representatives Bass (NH), Bradley (NH), Boehlert (NY), Hinchey (NY), Peterson (PA), and others in early March, 2005.

Federal Budget Request for FY2006

Submitted by Stakeholders of the Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium

NEED FOR A NEW STRATEGY: The future of rural communities in the Northeast depends upon solving the problems that limit the successes of existing farmers and the opportunities for new producers. A stakeholder-driven research strategy is needed that focuses on economic sustainability, environmental stewardship, and plant and animal systems that yield healthy pasture-based animal products and save fossil fuels. Northeast farmers have led the way in developing innovative forage- and pasture-based systems that preserve open space in an urbanizing landscape. They need more objective and defensible information on grazing systems adapted to their unique growing conditions, and results that help graziers, agricultural lenders, and policy leaders make better informed decisions. This new strategy must support these innovators on dairy and livestock farms of all sizes from New England to the mid-Atlantic Region.

PRIORITIES: The following are priority needs identified by stakeholders involved with the Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium:

  • Determine the management strategies and costs of transition or conversion from row crops to productive and sustainable grazing lands and soils.

  • Quantify the economics of whole-farm systems including the effects of breed selection, livestock diversification, and grazing management on animal and pasture health and well-being.

  • Evaluate new forage species and improved varieties under grazing management and different climatic and soil conditions with emphasis on extending the grazing season.

  • Determine the environmental impacts and profitability of alternative supplemental feeding strategies for animals on high-protein pastures.

  • Evaluate the production and management aspects of pasture-based animal products for their human health benefits and assess their market potential.

  • Evaluate the use of organic food residues as supplemental feeds in organic pasture-based animal systems.

REQUEST FOR FY2006:

  • Restore $500,000 for “sustainable forage livestock systems research and research on nutrient management to protect water quality carried out at the ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Station, University Park, PA,” that originated as a Congressional add-on in FY2001.

  • Provide $600,000 to the USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, PA (including $200,000 for a specific cooperative agreement with Cornell University) for research on reducing the environmental impacts and improving the profitability of grazing farms through the use of new Best Management Practices (BMPs) for supplemental feeding of animals on high-protein pastures.

  • Provide $600,000 to the USDA-ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Wyndmoor, PA (including $200,000 for a specific cooperative agreement with The Pennsylvania State University) for research on maximizing the market potential of pasture-based animal products by quantifying their human health benefits and developing new production and management guidelines for pasture-based animal systems to enhance these benefits.

IMPACT OF FUNDING ON THE NORTHEAST REGION: There are 8 million acres of grazing lands in the Northeast Region that sustain its important animal industry. This funding will facilitate research in sustainable forage-livestock systems and nutrient management to protect water quality.

The water quality research addresses issues affecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the New York City watershed, Lake Chaplain, and the Great Lakes, in addition to many smaller watersheds that have water quality impairments.

There are approximately 21,000 dairy farms in the Northeast Region that generate $3.9 billion in milk sales. Pennsylvania has 9,500 dairy operations, averaging 64 cows per herd, and New York has 7,000 dairy operations. Many of these are small family farm operations that are important to the well-being of rural communities.

Organic agriculture is growing at a rate of 20% per year. Organic dairy and livestock producers are very dependent on pasture as an economically viable and environmentally sound source of feed. Four of the top 8 organic dairy states are located in the Northeast Region (New York is 3rd; Pennsylvania, 4th; Vermont, 5th; and Maine, 8th).

SELECTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO-DATE: Funded research has demonstrated that dairy cows grazed on a diverse pasture mixture produced the same amount of milk and butterfat as those grazed on a mono-culture of alfalfa-orchardgrass. The diverse pasture was more productive and reduced annual feed purchases and feed costs, thus, increasing net on-farm income. In another study, a leading watershed model was modified to better represent nutrient losses from agricultural lands and the resultant effects on water quality. Also, a strategy was developed to determine watershed-specific scenarios that maximize the cost-effectiveness of conservation practices implemented on farms. Both these studies addressed priorities identified by Northeast graziers.

SPONSOR: The Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium is a private-public partnership of producers, agri-business suppliers, and NGOs from the Northeast Region (13 states, New England to Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio), and representatives from land-grant universities, USDA-ARS, and USDA-NRCS who conduct grazing research and provide technology transfer. The stakeholder members of the Consortium recommend the priorities for research and educational programs. Emphasis is on dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and horse enterprises across the Northeast Region.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact any member of the Consortium Stakeholder Action Committee: Dick Warner, Chair, Cincinnatus, NY; Steve Derrenbacher, Woodsboro, MD; Sam Dixon, Shelburne, VT; Angus Johnson, Dublin, NH; Larry Lohr, Hooversville, PA; or contact the Consortium Executive Director: Chuck Krueger,State College, PA.