2014 Northeast Pasture Consortium Annual Meeting Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium 2014 Annual Meeting, State College, PA, February 4-5, 2014

After lunch, the Reports Session began at 1:00 PM. Mr. Joe Hatton quickly reviewed the Private Sector research needs priorities. He highlighted some of the research needs not covered by the morning session. He mentioned that the parasite issues were nicely addressed during the previous technical session, but added the additional work is needed and supports the current efforts.

Silvopasture, as used in the Northeast, needs to be improved to work seamlessly on Northeastern pasture-based farms. With the closing of the Beaver, WV ARS research unit, someone needs to pick up this research need at a land grant university or other ARS research unit.

Birdsfoot trefoil culture needs further work to get more consistent stand establishment and retention, especially in the light of its nutritional and dewormer potential. The research need about conversion of cropland and forest to pasture also needs to include idle land that may be in some transition state between grassland and woodland.

He also briefly reiterated the need expressed at the morning session about orchardgrass persistence. Is it possibly a soil fertility problem? We need to check with Virginia Tech to see what progress they have made on finding a reason for orchardgrass loss.

We need to find the nutritional value of pasture fed beef and milk products. Consumers are driving grass fed markets. We need to look at how stock density and high quality grass interact. We need to maintain energy level: 40% of forages short on energy. We need to look at marketing opportunities in grass fed products. Finally, we need new alternatives to communicate research findings. Ken Miller added that we need more time in the Conference agenda to develop research needs.

Mr. Tom Akin, USDA-NRCS State Agronomist for Massachusetts and Public Sector Co-Chair for the NEPC, delivered the Public Sector report. Several research needs were brought up by the Public Sector. They were:

1. Research on the effectiveness of grass riparian buffers versus forested riparian buffers.
2. Research on agroforestry activities that could generate revenue within riparian areas.
3. Research on silvopasture issues in the Northeast.
4. Complete a research literature review on the implementation of riparian buffers (series of point-counterpoint arguments on living with the consequences of riparian buffers). Journal of the SWCS may be appropriate. Two previous publications for consideration: CAST Issue Paper #22, “Environmental Impacts of Livestock on U.S. Grazinglands” (William Krueger and Matt Sanderson, 2002); and the 2012 NRCS pastureland literature synthesis edited by Jerry Nelson.
5. Research needs of the equine community: vegetation suitable for heavy use areas; and evaluation of grass hay cultivars for lower sugar/fructan levels.
6. Research on the environmental impacts of swine on pastures (appropriate stocking rates on different quality pastures), and the interactions between swine and ruminants in mixed livestock grazing operations. Michigan State and WVU have publications.
7. Research on forages for small ruminants that contain condensed tannins that aid in parasite control. Ranking cultivars for tannin content and palatability. New cultivars of Serecia lespedeza being grown in Maryland are showing promise.
8. Research on biological fly control; soil nematode identified as a possible control in NY.
9. Research on grazing cover crop mixtures/cocktails for soil health benefits and season extension.
10. Research on extending the grazing season to maintain beneficial fatty acid ratios found in fresh forages.
11. Research on preserving health benefits of dairy products during processing. Can processing be adjusted to safely preserve the health benefits seen in raw milk?
12. Research on the economics of investing in feed ingredients (minerals) and soil amendments (micronutrients).
13. Research on providing free choice minerals cafeteria style (animals self-medicating).
14. Research on the benefits and economics of fodder crops. Do the labor and energy costs out-weigh the benefits?

The Agricultural Research Service Report was given by Dr. Mark Boggess, Acting National Program Leader for Pasture, Range, and Forages. He is acting for the time being. It will be a while before a decision will be made on whether or not to advertise the position. A previous search for National Program Leader came up empty. He thanked the Consortium for involving him in the Conference. He had found it to be very enlightening as it was his first opportunity to come.

He then turned over the ARS report to Dr. Howard Skinner from University Park, PA to talk about the seven Climate Change Hubs. Dr. Skinner said that for the eastern US, the Durham, NH Forest Service office, the University Park and Ithaca, NY ARS research units, and the Greensboro, NC NRCS East National Technology Support Center were hubs.

Dr. Peter Kleinman, Research Leader, also reported on changes going on at University Park. They were contemplating setting up a work group to do a literature review of riparian area grazing management as suggested by the Consortium at this Conference. Ray Bryant was to take the lead on this effort.

Dr. James P. Dobrowolski, National Program Leader for Rangeland and Grassland Ecosystems, gave the National Institute of Food and Agriculture report remotely over the conference speaker phone. He narrated his PowerPoint presentation sent previously to the Executive Director. Major Challenge Areas for Agricultural Research and Education are the Budget—but NIFA did OK in the 2014 budget, Management—New Farm Bill, and Societal Challenges—More with less. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack’s priority areas remain that agriculture must address:

1. Climate Change
2. Bioenergy
3. Food safety
4. Nutrition
5. International food security

NIFA has added a new challenge area - Water. A Request for Application (RFA) is under review (out this month?). It involves Coordinated Agricultural Projects that are integrated at large scales. NIFA is guide by 3 principles: Focus, Scale, and Impact. NIFA will focus resources on delivering bold results with great power to improve human and animal health and protect our environment. NIFA will work on large projects where we see great potential for breakthroughs on a scale never before seen or imagined. NIFA will award research where we know the impact on human health and well-being can be tangible and meaningful.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy is the Director of NIFA. Meryl Broussard is the Deputy Director. We are a small agency with a big budget: \~\$1.277 billion for fiscal year 2014. We are into the fourth year of the original Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPS) and standard grants (e.g., Corn CAP in Iowa; Wheat CAP in Washington). Budgets are reduced, so project budgets are reduced. We have funded large grants for wheat, conifers, dairy and rangeland beef. In FY2014 there are no Climate Change or Bioenergy CAPS. Agency Extramural Funding for Grazing Land Research, Education and Outreach AFRI Grant Program – Last year the Climate Change Challenge Area (rangeland and grassland commodity focus in 2012-13)

  • Dairy in Wisconsin received \$19 M.
  • Beef in Oklahoma received \$9 M.

AFRI for 2014:

  • Sustainable Food Systems to Improve Food Security Challenge Area (Standard Grants \$6 M, up to \$1.5 M per project) Reduce crop and livestock losses in U.S. agricultural systems by developing and extending sustainable, integrated management strategies that reduce pre and post-harvest losses caused by diseases, insects, and weeds in crop and animal production systems, while maintaining or improving product quality and production efficiency.
  • AFRI Foundational for 2014 – Renewable Energy, Natural Resources and Environment (RENRE)—
    Connect biodiversity specifically as an ecosystem service to production system functionality, productivity, socioeconomic viability, sustainability and the production of other ecosystem services related to air, water, soil, habitat and land use.
  • Managed Agroecosystems (\$9 M, 2014 RFA released in December 2013)
    Agroecosystem projects designed to develop management systems that significantly increase the output and/or value of at least three ecosystem services compared with the current management system for the region. This part of the AFRI Foundational appears to be a fruitful area for Consortium member land grants to apply for a grants that involve pasture.
  • Critical Agricultural Research and Extension (CARE) (\$5 M, 2014 RFA released in December 2013) Despite prior investments in basic and applied research, critical problems continue to impede the efficient production and protection of agriculturally-important plants and animals. These problems may be local, regional, or national, and may call for work focused on one or more scientific disciplines. However, all need immediate attention to meet producer needs. Finding and implementing solutions to these critical problems require partnership and close coordination among researchers, extension experts, and producers. This too has some good ties to the Consortium but is capped rather low and is only a 3-year project.


  • National Integrated Water Quality Program—Funded pasture-related water quality and quantity efforts (e.g., Chesapeake Bay watershed (\$4 M in 2014), RFA out in the Spring 2014.
  • RREA National Focus Funds—Back to \$300 K in 2014)
  • Alfalfa and Forage Research Program—(\$1.35 M in 2014), RFA is under construction.
  • Research into alfalfa and forage holds the potential to increase forage yields, increase milk production, improve forage genetics to increase biomass for cellulosic ethanol.
  • Research should be directed to the improvement of yields, creation of new uses of alfalfa and forages for bioenergy and the development of new storage and harvest systems.
    •Beginning Farmer and Rancher—currently back in the new farm bill (\$20 M each year through 2018, provisional),
  • Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI)—currently in the new farm bill (\$20 M each year through 2018, provisional)
  • SARE—currently increased (\$22.7 M)
  • Hatch—raised to above FY2012 levels (\$243 M)

Ms. Susan Parry gave the USDA-NRCS report for Mr. Sid Brantly that he prepared as he had to return to Washington, DC after the morning sessions. She started out with a list of vacancies for state grazinglands specialists: MD, KY, FL, GA, AK, NM and regional grazinglands specialists, 2 positions at the West NTSC, 1 at the East NTSC, and 3 Range Conservationists at the Central NTSC. Thank you for supporting NRCS capacity to provide technical assistance through trained personnel.

Pastureland NRI on-site study: Funding this year is the same as last year. Thank you for your support. 600 segments for 2014, same as 2013. Please continue to support this important work.

Forage Suitability Groups (FSGs): We have a team that is moving forward to modify the Pastureland NRI data processing to assist in building FSG data tables. The relationship between ecological site descriptions is under review, as well as data housing and retrieval processes.

Ecological Site Descriptions (ESDs) used on rangeland and forestland was reported on first. The Interagency ESD Manual has been completed and is in place. An interagency agreement between the the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and NRCS is currently being routed around for signatures. An Interagency ESD Team, led by Dr. Joel Brown, is becoming operational at the Jornada Experimental Range in Las Cruces, NM. The NRCS ESD Handbook is complete and will be rolled out this month. The Interagency ESD Team responsible for the Interagency ESD Manual was recognized in December by Secretary Vilsack with a USDA Honor Award.

NRCS Management Practices: Job approval authority for NRCS management conservation practices is under review by a committee organized under Terrell Erickson, Ecological Science Division Director.

Brush Management & Herbaceous Weed Control: A waiver process for EQIP payments for Brush Management and Herbaceous Weed Control has been established such that up to 3 years of payments can be made when needed for “hard to control” species and groups of plants.