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AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012

LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

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Drought puts federal crop insurance under scrutiny By ALYSSA A. BOTELHO The WashingTon PosT WASHINGTON — This year’s historic drought is turning the spotlight on an obscure form of aid for America’s farmers: federal crop insurance. With crop losses soaring, farmers are headed toward some $18 billion in losses, and taxpayers might foot up to $10 billion of that, according to Vincent Smith, an economist at Montana State University who has studied crop insurance for nearly two decades. That’s on top of the $9 billion this year that the federal government provided farmers to help them afford crop insurance premiums. Partly because of the costs involved, the insurance program has come under scrutiny from both sides of the political aisle. Budget hawks and environmentalists alike are calling for tougher limits that they say would discourage farmers from taking risks with their finances and the land. But Congress seems to be interested in expanding, not curbing, the crop-insurance program, and farmers say the insurance program is a critical lifeline, especially this year. In large part due to the hottest July on record in 118 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its expected yield for corn and soybean harvests for the second time in two months – with corn predicted to be at its lowest yield in more than 15 years. Under the insurance program, which dates back to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the government pays 60 percent of the premium for coverage. The farmer pays the rest. Though policies are offered by private insurers, the government reinsures

AP PHOTO

Steve Niedbalski shows his drought and heat stricken corn while chopping it down for feed in July in Nashville Ill. Farmers in parts of the Midwest are dealing with the worst drought in nearly 25 years. them against their losses and helps fund their annual operating costs. Environmental groups complain that the government-subsidized insurance has encouraged corn farmers to take risks and till lands they otherwise wouldn’t. They say that, in turn, destroys areas critical for both wildlife and livestock struggling to find grazing places that aren’t parched. More than 23 million acres of American grass and wetlands were plowed under for cash crops like corn and soybean from 2008 to 2011, according to a report released last Monday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Land losses were greatest in counties that received the largest amount of crop insurance subsidies, the study said. “That’s equivalent to plowing the entire state of Indiana or 31 Yosemites,” said Scott Faber, the group’s vice president of government affairs. “It’s a huge impact to take an area the size of Indiana and cover it from one end to

the other in fertilizer.” Most of the newly tilled acres are in the Great Plains and the Upper Midwest, which have been hit hard by the drought. In many cases, livestock producers, with no government-subsidized insurance like crop farmers, are shelling out for expensive corn and hay to feed their animals because they can’t find new pastures for grazing. “I don’t want to under-emphasize that crop farmers will face problems,” said Purdue agricultural economist Christopher Hurt. “But the crop sector has a lot of compensation potential right now that the livestock sector just never sees.” Other critics say the crop insurance subsidies are simply too expensive at a time when the federal budget is awash in red ink. Nevertheless, House and Senate versions of the 2012 farm bill would offer more generous insurance coverage in place of a controversial “direct payment” program that gave lump sums of money to farmers whether they grew crops or not. Smith, also a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a freemarket think tank, recently concluded that the expanded crop insurance program could potentially be even more expensive for taxpayers than the lump sum payments. “If the government takes on much of the risk in farming, paradoxically, farmers adopt riskier production practices and stop using cheaper tools to manage business,” he said. Those riskier practices, he added, include using fewer chemicals against pests, failing to rotate the kinds of crops planted, and expanding into marginal, less fertile lands which EWG members say could be conserved or

used as graze land. But defenders of the crop insurance program say its a vital part of the government safety net for farmers. “I know the program has critics, but in farm country, it’s the most valuable tool we have to survive,” said Anthony Bush, an Ohio corn farmer. “That’s why 80 percent of us buy it.” And David Redman, an adviser in Lawrence County, Ind., who helps both farmers and ranchers respond to natural disaster, says that while big farm corporations might see profits this year because of high crop prices and insurance claims, the 100-200 acre family-sized farms won’t. “Most of the farmers I know buy bare minimum coverage to cover out-ofpocket expenses — just enough to keep going next year,” he said, adding that a quarter of the 700 farmers he assists in his area don’t buy any insurance at all. Those farmers say they still can’t afford the premiums, even with the government subsidy, Redman said. Bush has paid into the program for over a decade and has never qualified to collect a claim on his losses, though he expects to this year. He says his share of the annual premium is roughly $30,000. He has lost over $140,000 to drought on his corn harvest. A member of the National Corn Growers Association, Bush says that while some highly insured crop farmers might be inclined to expand their operations, the trend can be discouraged by expanding conservation programs rather than reducing subsidies. Debate is also swirling around USDA regulations that keep secret the identities of participating farmers — including 26 of the nation’s largest farming operations which received more than

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LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012

Video crew chronicles Lake Placid, home of state Ag Woman of the Year By MAT DELANEY

[email protected]

A threeman video crew was in Lake Placid for three days this week in January, videotaping the hometown of Sarah Childs, the state’s Agriculture Woman of the Year for PHOTO PROVIDED 2011. It was shown at Sarah K. Childs the Florida State Fair in February when Childs will be officially recognized. Graphic designer Bill Humphries, videographer Richard Hill and director Rick Lurding. all of Tallahassee, videotaped several locations in and around Lake

Placid. The video is intended as a tribute to Childs and her hometown. Lurding said similar videos have been created for past Ag Woman of the Year honorees. Traditionally, he said, those videos have debuted during the award presentation at the state fair. “These (videos) are a lot of fun for us,” he said. “We get to showcase the hometown of our winner and show a little bit about their life.” Also featured is a glimpse of Childs’ work-a-day world at the Heartland area operations of Lykes Brothers, Inc. Cattle Ranch and Citrus Division where she works to ensure the company is in compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules. Childs was presented with the award Feb. 13, during the Ag Woman of the Year luncheon at the Florida State Fair in Tampa. The award, now in its 27th year, is sponsored by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida State Fair Authority. The award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to Florida agriculture.

FFA students attend Ag Woman of the Year luncheon

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Graphic designer Bill Humphries, videographer Richard Hill and director Rick Lurding consider a scene for a video about Lake Placid – the hometown of Sarah Childs, Florida’s Agriculture Woman of the Year. According to a press release from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Childs has been an enthusiastic participant in Florida’s agriculture industry, dedicating her time and talents for more than 40 years to organizations, such as Florida Cattlewomen’s Association, Florida Beef Council, Florida Hereford Association, Highlands County Youth Livestock Show and the Highlands County Cattlemen’s Association. She is the only woman to serve two non-consecutive terms as Florida Cattlewomen’s Association President and as a 4-H Leader has been a chief proponent of providing youth educational and leadership opportunities for

more than 15 years. “Sarah has been a long-time ambassador for Florida’s agriculture, livestock and ranching industries,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “Her dedication, commitment and service to this state and our community are unmatched and it is an honor to present her with this year’s Woman of the Year in Agriculture award.” Childs is the second Highlands County resident to be named Florida’s Agriculture Woman of the Year. Norma Stokes of Lorida was chosen for the honor in 1996, the same year she was honored as Florida Cattlewoman of the Year by the state association.

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AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012

LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

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Historic Cow Camp ends anniversary year By PEGGY KEHOE and JEFF ROSLOW Polk County’s 150th anniversary came to an end Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Circle B Bar Reserve with the opening of the Historic Cow Camp. The camp at the 1,267-acre preserve features a cabin and corral. The dedication opened with a cattle drive and even featured a county commissioner riding horseback.

PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

One of the many cows crowded a pen created at the Cow Camp at the Circle B Bar Reserve. The cows were driven into the corral that morning at the camp’s dedication that marked “Citrus, timber and much of it being cattle made Polk County what it is today,” Commissioner Sam Johnson said. “But probably today it’s the people that make it what is.” He said the camp gives people a look of what it was like to live in Polk County in the mid 19th century. “That was a tough life,” he said.

Ned Waters, a member of the Cattlemen’s Association and one who helped design the Cow Camp, cut the ribbon Cracker style Saturday. The ribbon was actually a strand of barbed wire. After failing to cut it with a whip, he grabbed it and pulled the wood stump from the table to the left. Lloyd Harris, chairman of the Polk Association (PCCA) volunteers built the County, Young explained. County Historical Committee, gave a addition to Circle B in the area where the “In the 19th century the cattle drives rundown of what it like for those who former ranch’s original cow camp was, started in March and lasted until August,” made mid-Florida their home in the county Historic Preservation Manager according to information shared by Maria 19th century and he said the opening of Myrtice Young said. Trippe, Polk County Historical Museum asthe camp doesn’t necessarily close the In keeping with the grassroots nature of sistant, on the PCCA website. “Cow Camps 150th anniversary celebration, which the year-long sesquicentennial celebration, were scattered over the woodlands about lasted a year, but marks the continuthe PCCA approached Young about buildone day apart. They consisted of crude ation of learning about the county’s ing the cow camp a few months ago, and shelters and log pens to gather wild cattle. history. also provided some funding. The county The animals had to be flushed from the “Welcome to the journey,” he said to provided the materials for the camp, which Florida palmetto scrub and swamps with the 100 people who showed up for the includes a cabin and corral. Polk County whips, dogs, and horses.” opening. “We’re coming to the close brands will adorn one of the structures, The Cow Camp will preserve the heritage of a year-long celebration with the along with a brand made of the Polk Proud and culture of one of Polk County’s oldest opening of a camp at the Circle B Bar 150 logo, Young said. industries. An outdoor exhibit educates Reserve and opening the showing of Designs for the camp were drawn by visitors about the history of the land, its the oldest industry in Polk County.” local cattleman and artist Ned Waters, Imperial Polk County Cattlemen’s who visited a 1905 camp in Northeast Polk CAMP| 22

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LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012

CAMP FROM PAGE 21 preservation and uses, and how it led to where we are today in the cattle industry and land use. Waters and the Imperial Polk County Cattlemen’s Association were recognized for their service at the Feb. 21 Polk County Commission meeting “for their generous commitment of time and support in contributing to Polk County’s Sesquicentennial celebration.” “The financial contribution and exceptional efforts of the members of the Imperial Polk County Cattlemen’s Association have made possible the Circle B Cow Camp Exhibit” were acknowledged, was were Waters’ “visionary guidance and selfless acts of time and dedication … in creating the concept and design of the cow camp exhibit.” In a non-traditional style, the ribboncutting was done Cracker style, as Harris said, as Waters rode in on horseback and tried to cut a barbed wire “ribbon” with a whip. However, after four failed attempts, he pulled the barbed wire and the wood post it was tied to, sitting on a table, tumbled to the ground. The camp was officially open.

PHOTO BY PEGGY KEHOE

Chatting at a preview of the Cow Camp are (from left) Ned Waters, who designed the cabin; Kerry Hammock and Starla Hammock of Auburndale. The beds are built high to catch the breeze, and filled with moss.

PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

Mustang Sally and The Hamjos enterained the crowd during the Cow Camp kickoff marking the end of Polk County’s 150th anniversary celebration Saturday at the Circle B Bar Reserve. Pat Kochenburger (from left) plays the washtub bass, Dick Prince is on banjo, Sally Anderson plays the hammered dulcimer, and Danny Lomnick is on guitar.

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Polk County Historic Museum historic preservation manager Myrtice Young speaks to the crowd Saturday at the Cow Camp dedication as Lloyd Harris, chairman of the Polk County Historical Committee, looks on.

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AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012

LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

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PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

Mia Flores, 5, of Lake Wales almost catches the loop in a game of Grace at the Circle B Bar Reserve during the Cow Camp kickoff Saturday.

PHOTO BY PEGGY KEHOE

PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

Polk County Commissioner Sam Johnson talked to the crowd at the dedication ceremony of the Cow Camp Saturday at the Circle B Bar Reserve after riding in on horseback. He said the Cow Camp represents what Polk County looked like when it started.

James Finley (left) and Earli Sullivan sit on the steps of the cabin at the Circle B Bar Reserve Cow Camp. Sullivan recalls spending nights in a similar cabin on Rough Island on Lake Hatchineha. Moss lined the beds and sometimes he would smoke it over the fire “to run the chiggers out,” Sullivan said, and use his saddle for a pillow. When working the cattle out there, all the supplies had to be carried in by horseback.

PHOTO BY PEGGY KEHOE

PHOTO BY JEFF ROSLOW

Zane Bashdor, 7, gives it his best shot with a lasso Saturday at the Circle B Bar Reserve during the Cow Camp kickoff there.

Checking the heat of a branding iron are (from left) Junior Cash of Lake Wales, David Hunt from Alturas-Bartow area, and Neil Combee of Lakeland. The brands were used to decorate a picnic table at the Cow Camp at Circle B Bar Reserve at a dinner Thursday.

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LAKE WALES NEWS-POLK COUNTY DEMOCRAT-FROSTPROOF NEWS-FORT MEADE LEADER-LAKE PLACID JOURNAL-ARCADIAN

AGRI-BUSINESS-SEPT. 2012