Carper, Wilkins highlight impacts of trade war

wilkins in DC 2019U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Richard Wilkins, president of the Delaware Farm Bureau, joined a bipartisan group of senators and business owners in Washington on Feb. 6 to discuss the negative impacts of President Trump’s trade policies on Delaware and the nation’s agricultural community.

Carper said, “In Delaware, shipments of steel and aluminum are the fourth largest import cargo arriving at the Port of Wilmington. And while we may be a small state, Delaware has the highest value of agricultural products produced per acre in the country. Haphazardly slapping tariffs on these foreign products has senselessly put Delaware’s economy, soybean farmers and manufacturers in the crosshairs of a trade war where everyone loses… I’m hopeful that with senators from both sides of the aisle speaking up, we can prevent further damage from being done. It’s time for the President to start putting America first.”

Wilkins talked about the effect of the tariffs on his own operation:

“Last year, when the tariffs were placed on steel and aluminum imports into this country, our trading partners retaliated by placing tariffs on U.S. goods, including soybeans, going into China. That started a slide in the value of one of the commodities that I produce – soybeans — of more than 20 percent.

“China is buying dramatically fewer soybeans from the United States. They are not only seeking supplies from other nations, they also discovered they do not need as much soy meal in livestock rations as they once were. They will look for alternative proteins. That has long term implications. If they discover they do not need a high inclusion rate of soybean in their rations, we will never get that demand back again.

“Last year we produced over 4 billion bushels of soybeans in the United States. Today the carryout is projected to be nearly 1 billion bushels. So 20 to 25 percent of last year’s crop will still be sitting in silos and storage bins when we begin harvesting this year’s crop.

“This burdensome excess supply will hurt the prices of our commodities for the next several years to come. It will create permanent damage with the trading relationships we have built in overseas markets.”

Wilkins urged the legislators: “Please rescind these tariffs today.”

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Meet Your Farmer: Jacob and Melissa Urian

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Jacob Urian, age 34, is a good example of today’s young farmer in Delaware. Well-educated, he has been a conservation planner at Kent Conservation District in Dover for more than six years. He is a Certified Crop Advisor, nutrient management consultant and certified pesticide applicator.

Urian and his wife, Melissa, live in a house on the home farm in Clayton where he currently farms part-time with his parents. They grow corn, soybeans and hay and raise beef cattle. For the past couple of years, Urian also has been farming on his own, producing the same crops as he father and growing black Angus cattle.

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Melissa is employed as a pharmacist at Atlantic Apothecary in Smyrna.

Urian has been a Farm Bureau member for about nine years. He was elected Kent County Farm Bureau president after the former president, Richard Wilkins, became state president. Urian has served as chairman of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee the last three years. His replacement as YF&R chair will be elected in February. Under his leadership, the YF&R has continued to participate in the strawberry festival, tractor pull and Dover Days parade. This year the group also volunteered to help with as King Crop Insurance and Allen Chorman jointly celebrated their 50th anniversaries.Jacob.jpg

The YF&R has also moved toward ag advocacy, in addition to training leaders and encouraging farmers to get more involved. “We have gone to elementary schools on Super Science Day and read the American Farm Bureau’s Book of the Year to the students. We are spreading awareness of the importance of agriculture in our community,” he said.

 

Bayer Crop Science sponsoring Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation outreach

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Director of Industry Affairs, Doug Rushing meets with DFB President Richard Wilkins at the 2019 AFBF annual convention.

Delaware Farm Bureau President Richard Wilkins, right, met with Doug Rushing, director of industry affairs for Bayer Crop Science at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention in January. Wilkins was able to personally thank Rushing for Bayer’s sponsorship in the amount of $3,000 to be used by the Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation in an educational outreach program. Through the program, farmers will tell stories of how local Delaware farm families are utilizing science and technology to provide safe, affordable and nutritious foods to consumers.

Bayer’s Crop Science division is the third largest innovative agricultural input company in the world and has businesses in high-value seeds, crop protection and non-agricultural pest control.

The non-profit Delaware Farm Bureau Foundation, incorporated in 2013, was created to build awareness, understanding and positive public perception about Delaware’s farm operations, promote fresh local food and sponsor the Ag Education Mobile Classroom. To learn more, visit http://www.defb.org.

Mental Health First Aid Training sessions available in March, April

As in many states, Delaware’s agriculture community is facing many stressors. People who are in a position to consult and help need to know what stress, addiction and/or mental health disorders look like. Farm family members also need to know how best to help their loved ones.

To help meet this need, Mental Health First Aid Training sessions have been scheduled in Dover and Newark, with a third session in Sussex County in the works.

By attending this training, you will be better prepared to interact with a person in crisis and connect the person with help. First Aiders do not take on the role of professionals — they do not diagnose or provide any counseling or therapy. Instead, you’ll learn concrete tools and answers to key questions, such as “what do I do?” and “where can someone find help?”

The Mental Health First Aid training is a public education program that introduces participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental illnesses, builds understanding of their impact, and outlines common ways to help and find support.

These eight-hour courses use interactive educational methods to demonstrate how to offer initial help in a mental health crisis and will help you connect to the appropriate professional, peer, social and self-help care.

The program teaches the common risk factors and warning signs of specific types of illnesses such as anxiety, depression, substance use and others. The Mental Health First Aid training is an Evidence-based Program, which means that studies show it has been effective in meeting its desired outcomes.

A Certified Mental Health First Aid instructor from the Delaware Mental Health Association will conduct the training and provide a list of community healthcare providers and national resources, support groups and online tools for mental health and addictions treatment and support. All trainees receive a program manual to complement the course material.

The training is being underwritten from generous support from the Sustainable Coastal Communities project, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension and the Delaware Mental Health Association. In Sussex County, Beebe Hospital is also providing support. A light lunch and snacks will be provided.

The first session will be held on March 8, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, 2320 S. Dupont Highway in Dover. The second will be held April 8, also from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the New Castle County Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Road, Newark.

Seats are limited. Click here for registration form.

 

Meet Your Farmer: Bill and Joan Powers

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Bill and Joan Powers

There have been farmers in Bill Powers’ family for generations. “My cousin’s kids up in New York are the eighth generation in farming there,” he said.

In his direct line, farming skipped a generation with his father, William Powers Sr., who worked for the New York Central Railroad. In 1977, when that company merged with Pennsylvania Railroad, his father was transferred to Philadelphia, and the family settled in Delaware in the community of Arundel, off Limestone Road near the Pennsylvania state line. Powers was 10 years old. He has two brothers, Brendan and Joe. His mother, Karol, was a schoolteacher.

His family got the idea that their son wanted to be a farmer, Powers said, “when I started bringing tractors home to the subdivision.”

His parents bought a farm in Townsend, on the Maryland state line. Powers rented the land from his parents while a senior at Newark High School. “I started farming in 1977 right out of high school with one tractor,” he said.

When his father died at age 52 in 1987, Powers was only 26. He bought the farm from his mother, going to settlement a week after meeting his future bride, Joan Craig. “My dad had said a few years earlier I should think about buying the farm. He wanted to move to the beach,” Powers said.

Powers worked on the assembly line at Chrysler in Newark from 1978 to 2006. He married in 1989. Joan’s father wasn’t a farmer either, but had been in the military, but her grandparents had a dairy farm in Chesapeake City, MD.

“People sometimes wonder why members of farm families marry someone from a farm family. You’ve got to be brought up in it,” Powers said. “If we’re invited to a wedding in June, we might be on time if it’s raining. Joan understands.”

Joan does the books and now works full time as a rural mail carrier. When he worked at Chrysler, she took care of all the animals. Powers raised hay and feed for the livestock.

“I would come home and cut hay at night. The next evening she’d have hay raked and I’d come home and bale,” he said.

The couple had a daughter, Katie, in 1990 and a son, Will, in 1993.

The children helped on the farm from an early age. “I remember when Will was really little – he was maybe 3. We would get down and listen to the turkeys breathe because they can develop respiratory problems. I remember all the white bodies and red and blue heads, and Will said there was a sick one in one corner. He was looking in their eyes. He was right.

“I’d give him a stick when he was about 6, to help cut out a steer. The older workers couldn’t do it as well as he could by age 8 or 10. He had been watching my wife and I.

Both children were active 4-H members and later members of Smyrna FFA, where they did meat judging before they learned livestock judging. Powers said, “I thought even if they don’t farm later, they’ll know how to pick out a piece of meat.”

When the family went grocery shopping, he would ask the children to pick out the best cut of meat in the store – not that they were going to buy meat there, but just for the practice.

The children began showing livestock around 1998 and exhibited in local, state, regional and national shows.

Katie favored sheep and maintained a flock of Dorsets, Suffolks and wether-type Hampshires.

Will focused on hogs, maintaining a herd of mainly Poland Chinas with some Yorkshires and Chester Whites.

Together they had an assortment of club lamb and steer projects and a small goat herd. Both Katie and Will met with great success in the show ring and developed long-lasting friendships.

Katie attended Oklahoma State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science and participated on the collegiate meat judging team.

“A month before she graduated, she told me she wanted to go to grad school,” Powers said. “I told her to get a job and let them pay for her master’s.”

Katie then obtained a graduate assistantship which helped pay for her degree. She received her master’s in agricultural communications. After working in the industry for several years, she now has her own business, Powerful Dezigns, a full-service marketing firm specializing in photography and graphic design. During her busy season of January through March, she will be attending almost all the major livestock shows as a photographer. Katie lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Spencer, where they operate a show pig operation, McGuire Livestock.

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Will Powers, III and his fiancee, Ariel

Will went to The Automotive Training Center in Exton, Pa., to learn auto and diesel mechanics. Powers said, “We work and manage the farm together. He and his fiancée, Ariel Bilbrough, will be getting married in October. She helps a lot on the farm, processing turkeys, entering invoices and helping at the farmers markets with Will. ”

Recently, while Powers was being interviewed on the telephone, Will was grinding feed. “We make all our own feed,” Powers said. “We grow non-GMO corn because of our customers. We grow our own feed and grind it. I am vertically integrated,” he said.

Powers Farm raises cage-free laying hens and sells their brown eggs. The birds are housed in individual buildings, 75 to a house. Their eggs are collected by hand. There are no automated feeders, they must be filled individually. They have egg graders and automatic washers that wash 200 dozen eggs an hour, but workers are needed to run the machines.

“It’s a niche market,” Powers explained. “We have a lot more labor costs than an automated house, but we’re making more money per dozen. We have to.”

The larger operations go with volume. Powers doesn’t. “They are two different markets,” he said.

Powers raised turkeys again this year, something he did in the 1990s but gave up in 2001. “We raised about 240 this year,” he said. Most were sold.

His beef cattle are Jersey and Linebacks because of their marbling and excellence at converting grass to meat. “We don’t finish them in a feedlot,” he said, although they are given some grain. They are finished on pasture.

He continues to raise sheep and goats. Most of the sheep are crossbred Dorsets and Hampshires. Since the children are no longer showing animals, they don’t need purebreds.

powers farm eggs, scrapple and sausage“We sell everything off the farm direct market,” Powers said. “We sell to individuals, restaurants and small markets. We used to sell a lot of eggs at Willey Farms before the fire there.”

Powers said he sells beef by the quarter, half, whole or by the steak, however the customer wants their meat. “A lot of times people come to buy beef and I suggest they try just one cut before buying a quarter or half, so they’ll know what they are getting.”

As with the beef, marbling is important in pork. Powers grows mostly Berkshires because of their marbling. After Katie finished her education, he asked her was it true about Berkshires and marbling. She said yes, because so much fat has been bred off other breeds.

“We don’t want a lot of lard, just marbling. The fat should be marbled through the meat,” Powers said.

He has the livestock butchered at Haas Family Butcher Shop in Dover or Sudlersville Meat Locker in Maryland.

“We pride ourselves in producing safe, wholesome, products to assist in maintaining the health of local customers throughout the Delmarva area. The farm is also a means of getting consumers of the area involved in agriculture,” Powers said.

In addition to meat sales, the family also uses the wool from their sheep to create and sell custom-made wool-filled comforters, mattress pads and pillows. They also sell sheep skins — great for car seat covers, bed-rest patients and floor rugs. They also raise Australian Shepherd pups.

With Will’s interest in farming, the Powers family purchased a second farm in Maryland three years ago. Both farms have a Mason Dixon marker on them.

Powers has been a Farm Bureau member since 1986. He served as New Castle County President from 1996 to 2004.  Joan Powers served as New Castle County Women’s Committee Chair from 1990-2003.

Powers said he remembered being involved during Delaware Farm Bureau’s 50th anniversary, and now he is serving as second vice president as the organization celebrates its 75th year.powers farm logo 1977

He also recalled that Joan served on the state board of directors before he did. “She would bring Katie and Will to meetings, and they would sleep under table. I think Will’s been attending Farm Bureau meetings longer than anyone.”

Will is now on the county board and is a New Castle County representative on the State Farm Bureau Board.

Powers’ mother, Karol Powers-Case, is a member of the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee and was a member of the Ag Literacy Committee which has been folded into the Promotion and Education Committee. Now 82, she is still involved in the farm operation. “She’ll make deliveries,” Powers said. “It keeps her busy.”

In 2004, the Powers family put their Delaware farm in the county’s Farmland Preservation Program; therefore, the land may never be developed.

Powers was elected to the New Castle County Council in 2006 and served through 2018.  He is a past member of the Delaware Beef Advisory Council, New Castle County Farm Preservation Advisory Board, the Delaware Open Space Council, the Delaware Citizen’s Task Force for Water Quality, and the Search Committee for National Parks in Delaware.

He holds an Honorary State FFA Degree and has received both the Delaware Farm Bureau Service to Agriculture Award and the Farm Family of the Year Award.

Get to know your farmer! Call to arrange a purchase from the farm in Townsend at (302) 378-0826 or visit online at thepowersfarm.com.

Delaware Farm Bureau hires new executive director

poppiti edited.jpgJoseph Poppiti has been hired as Delaware Farm Bureau’s new executive director, replacing Pam Bakerian, who retired after 10 years of service. A native Delawarean, Poppiti currently lives in Kennett Square, Pa., in a farm house that once belonged to his mother’s family. His maternal grandfather was a passionate mushroom grower. Poppiti continued in the family business, growing specialty mushrooms and managing up to 300 employees with $18 million budgets. Most recently, Poppiti consulted for other mushroom growers.

Poppiti also owned and managed JoBeth Farms LLC, a full service urban landscape firm offering design, planting and maintenance. He has worked with Sue Barton and others at the University of Delaware. He served on a committee promoting uses for spent mushroom compost and provided material and did work with summer grasses, especially on DelDOT properties.

Poppiti majored in horticulture at Penn State with a minor in mushroom science. In 2000, he began volunteering in the American Mushroom Institute, a national mushroom farmer member trade association. He served as chairman of the board from 2010 through 2014, managing a $2 million budget. While AMI retains a lobbying firm in Washington, Poppiti has developed relationships with colleagues who monitor happenings concerning agriculture at a national level.

“I am passionate about educating elected officials on what are the challenges of farming today. I am familiar with several state legislators and have colleagues who provide support to the legislators,” Poppiti said.

He also has experience in writing state and federal grants and working with AMI’s Community Awareness Scholarship Foundation.

Poppiti and his wife, Beth, have one grown daughter, Kathryn.

Poppiti started in his new position on Dec. 3.

Meet Your Farmer: Richard and Donna Wilkins

Richard and cows.jpgRichard Wilkins, who farms in Greenwood, was elected president of Delaware Farm Bureau at its annual meeting Dec. 3.

Wilkins, who received DFB’s “Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award” in December 2015, was elected president of Kent County Farm Bureau in October 2017. A past treasurer and past vice president of KCFB, he had been president of the Young Farmers and Ranchers in the mid-1980s, and he and his wife, Donna, were Young Farmer Achievement Award winners in 1988.

Since 2002, Wilkins has also been active in the Mid-Atlantic Soybean Association, where he was president from 2005 to 2010 and represented that organization at the national level. He then served on several American Soybean Association committees and served as ASA treasurer for two years before being elected ASA vice president, which led to the presidency and then chairman of the board. While his duties at the top of ASA have terminated, he continues to serve on the ASA board, where his main committee assignments are the Farm Bill & Crop Insurance Advocacy Team and the Farm Bill Task Force. He has been the ASA representative to the National Coalition for Food & Agricultural Research since 2010 and is currently NC-FAR’s vice president as well as serving as a director on the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation Board.

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How did a farmer from Delaware, which grows soybeans on about 165,000 acres, compete with farmers from states like Iowa, with 6.5 million acres of soybeans, to take the helm of ASA?

By being friendly, positive and building relationships, Wilkins said. “Farming in central and lower Delaware is not much different from commercial agriculture in Midwestern states.” Another thing that helped him, he said, is that Delaware is about 20 years ahead of other watersheds across the country dealing with regulation pressures on water quality and nutrient management issues. His experience makes him a resource for others just beginning to feel pressures on the freedom to operate because of those issues.

Wilkins has been growing soybeans since he was a teenager. By the time he graduated from Milford High School in 1976, he was tilling 65 ares of grain, raising beef cattle and growing hay and straw for horse farms. He double majored in ag business management and ag education at the University of Delaware. He and his wife, Donna, purchased their first farm, 150 acres,  in 1992. By 2000, it had grown to 300 acres of cropland, 1,000 acres of rented cropland and a direct marketed beef enterprise. He grows about 400 acres of soybeans, 400 acres of corn, 250 acres of wheat, 150 acres of barley, 300 acres of vegetables and 400 acres of hay. In 1998 Wilkins became a Vermeer retail hay equipment dealer, which blossomed into a full-service machinery and equipment dealership, B & W Farm Supply.

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Serving as an officer of ASA kept him away from home quite a bit. “I have been to China three times, twice speaking at the Global Food Security Summits. I’ve delivered messages on USA’s sustainable farming practices during many trade missions to EU member nations, Japan, Indonesia and, more recently, at the first Buyer’s Conference for the Asian Sub-Continent region. Advocating and negotiating for increased market access into the emerging global economies has been a passion, as well as eliminating the non-tariff trade barriers that exist in many established economies,” Wilkins said.

“The only reason I can do what I do is that I have a very marvelous wife who helps to keep things from falling apart while I’m away from home. She and my nephew, Christopher Neibert, are the backbone of our farming and business operation.”