Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture Enrollment

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Hail Netting: Is It Right for Your Farm?

Elizabeth Higgins, Business Management Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

June 11, 2018

Increasingly tree fruit growers in NYS are looking at hail netting as a tool for reducing the impact of hail in their orchards.  Hail netting is already widespread in Australia, Europe and is increasing in popularity in Washington State.   Netting is used in those places, not only to protect the fruit from hail, but also from sun damage, and insect/pest damage and to increase the quality of the fruit crop.  While hail netting seems to have promise, the growing conditions for tree fruit in New York are not the same as Australia, Europe and Washington.  The Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Ontario Fruit Team has recently received a grant to study hail netting in New York and its impact on pests and disease, yields, and quality of the fruit and to better understand the costs and labor needs for managing a hail netting system in a New York orchard.

Growers considering hail netting (or any other investment to protect their crop) need to consider the following questions:

  • How likely is the situation I want to avoid and how much harm would the situation cause to my farm business if it occurred? (risk assessment)
  • How much would it cost to protect myself (not just in money, but also lost opportunities) and how effective are the protection strategies? (cost benefit)
  • Are there other alternative investments that would result in an improved overall situation for the same or lower investment?  Make sure that you are prioritizing the "weak link" in your business.

For example, an asteroid hitting your farm could be devastating but it is also highly unlikely, and your options to protect yourself are few and costly.  Asteroid protection is probably a low priority investment in most farming operations.  Money is better spent on pest control, irrigation and improved horticultural practices.  So, what do we know about hail netting now?

In research conducted in Australia[1], apple price was found to be the most influential factor determining the profitability of hail net.  According to researchers "to offset high establishment costs, orchard productivity under hail netting must be maximized through the production of high yields of premium quality fruit and efficiency in tree management".  However, studies did indicate that if the price of hail netting was low enough, it would be cost effective in a wider range of orchards.  They also did consider benefits to hail netting such as improved apple quality (even when there is no hail), improved spray efficiency, and reduced pressure of pests and diseases.

Unfortunately, data on frequency and probability of hail affecting a specific location is not accurate and good models are not available.  It turns out that hail is really hard to model because the conditions that would create hail in the atmosphere, do not necessarily result in hail on the ground.  Recent research on hail in the context of global warming indicate that in the future (in the Eastern United States), hail events are likely to decrease but the hail that does fall will be more damaging[2].

Hail is certainly damaging to tree fruit growers.  From 2015-2017, 993 acres of apples in the LOFT region received insurance payments for hail damage.  The reimbursed loss was $4,139,880.  This loss does not include: loss of market share, uninsured acres, multi-year impacts on production, the financial burden in the lag in receiving insurance payment.

If you are considering hail netting, and can't wait for the LOFT research to be completed, I have developed a quick spreadsheet that you can use to calculate the net present value of installing hail netting on your farm.  You can include 1-3 hail events in the 10 year period and change the percent of fruit that goes to processing.  The spreadsheet is located at this link: https://tinyurl.com/yc7jogot.  The spreadsheet does not include multi-year effects, other benefits of hail netting, and labor costs only include manufacturer's estimates for application and removal at the beginning and end of the season.  Once the LOFT project is completed, this tool will be refined with more accurate data and a sensitivity analysis.  If you have any questions about this spreadsheet please contact me at emh56@cornell.edu.

Figure 1: Hail Netting in Clinton County, NY (photo credit: Elizabeth Higgins, ENYCH)


[1] Whittaker and Middleton. "Profitability of Hail Netting in Apple Orchards".  Contributed paper for the 43rd annual conference of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economic Society at Christchurch, 20-22 January 1999 and Middleton and McWalters. "Hail Netting of Apple Orchards - Australian Experience". Presentation at 45th Annual IDFTA Conference February 16-20, 2002, Lekowna, British Columbia, Canada

[2] Brimelow et al. "The changing hail threat over North America in response to anthropogenic climate change". Nature Climate Change 7, 516-522 (2017).



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Upcoming Events

Farm Financial Management Tuesdays - Planning for a Change or Exiting Your Farm Business

November 30, 2021 : Assessing the Financial Ramifications of and Options for Significant Change to Your Farm Business

The inflationary economy is upon us! The huge influx of money into the US economy following the COVID-19 pandemic has manufactured high prices and in turn increased operating costs for farm business thus forcing many businesses into net operating loss situations. Other farms are facing high labor costs or chronic labor shortages.  Some farms have taken on debt loads that make these increased costs unaffordable.  Depending on the stage in the business lifecycle, it may make sense to change enterprises or exit the farming business entirely. 

Join CCE ENYCH Ag Business Educator, Elizabeth Higgins, and CAAHP Ag Business Educator, Dayton Maxwell, for a one-hour program to learn about the financial aspects of changing or exiting a farm business. 

December 7, 2021 : The Family and Emotional Component; Shifting Business Direction and Life After Farming

As farm business enterprises are changed or disbanded, the emotional stress can be tremendous, especially when individuals and family members maintain diminished assurance relative to future security. 

Join Gabriel Gurley and Brenda O'Brien of New York FarmNet for a one-hour program focused on successfully navigating the emotional turmoil of a family farm business transition.

December 14, 2021 : New Venture Creation; Shifting Business Direction and Life After Farming

Change creates opportunity and new opportunities are certain when farm businesses change or end. 

Join Gabriel Gurley of New York FarmNet for a one-hour overview of identifying ways and means to capitalize on new opportunities resulting from farm business transitions.

 

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Remote Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Course - Dec 2021

December 8 - December 9, 2021

A grower training course developed by the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) that meets the regulatory requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) for farms subject to the Produce Safety Rule. All farms are welcome to attend to learn about recommended food safety practices for growing, handling, and storing fresh produce. Course registration fee includes a course manual and certificate of course completion by the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO).

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Tax Management for Beginning and Small Farm Businesses

January 18, 2022

Tax Management for Beginning and Small Farm Businesses.

A one-night virtual meeting for beginning and part-time farmers that provides useful tax information enabling participants to be make better tax decisions for their business.   Federal and state income taxes will be covered. Tax regulations specific to NYS will be covered as well. 


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Announcements

2021 SWD Insecticide Quick Guide

Prepare your sprayer and make sure you have the insecticides of choice on hand. Click on the following link for the revised 2021 SWD Insecticide Quick Guide: https://rvpadmin.cce.cornell.edu/uploads/doc_981.pdf

Current recommendations are to use the most effective material you can early in the spray program - even though the population seems small. The strategy is to keep the population small for as long as possible as it's very hard to gain control after the numbers have ballooned.  

USDA Offers Disaster Assistance for Producers

USDA Offers Disaster Assistance for Producers Facing Inclement Weather

Severe weather events create significant challenges and often result in catastrophic loss for agricultural producers. Despite every attempt to mitigate risk, your operation may suffer losses. USDA offers several programs to help with recovery.

Risk Management
For producers who have risk protection through Federal Crop Insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), we want to remind you to report crop damage to your crop insurance agent or the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.

If you have crop insurance, contact your agency within 72 hours of discovering damage and be sure to follow up in writing within 15 days. If you have NAP coverage, file a Notice of Loss (also called Form CCC-576) within 15 days of loss becoming apparent, except for hand-harvested crops, which should be reported within 72 hours.

Disaster Assistance
USDA also offers disaster assistance programs, which is especially important to livestock, fruit and vegetable, specialty and perennial crop producers who have fewer risk management options.
First, the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) reimburses producers for a portion of the value of livestock, poultry and other animals that died as a result of a qualifying natural disaster event or for loss of grazing acres, feed and forage. And, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) provides assistance to producers of grazed forage crop acres that have suffered crop loss due to a qualifying drought. Livestock producers suffering the impacts of drought can also request Emergency Haying and Grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.

For LIP and ELAP, you will need to file a Notice of Loss for livestock and grazing or feed losses within 30 days and honeybee losses within 15 days. For TAP, you will need to file a program application within 90 days.

Documentation
It's critical to keep accurate records to document all losses following this devastating cold weather event. Livestock producers are advised to document beginning livestock numbers by taking time and date-stamped video or pictures prior to after the loss.

Other common documentation options include:
- Purchase records
- Production records
- Vaccination records
- Bank or other loan documents
- Third-party certification

Additional Resources
On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help you determine program or loan options.

While we never want to have to implement disaster programs, we are here to help. To file a Notice of Loss or to ask questions about available programs, contact the Rensselaer County USDA Service Center @ 518 271 1889 ext. 2. The office is open for business, however due to pandemic restrictions all in-person visits require an appointment.


Resources from CCE ENYCHP!

We are developing new ways to connect with the CCE ENYCHP team this year! We have a Youtube page located at this link. Check out videos on Table Grape Production, Pest Updates and the 20 Minute Ag Manager - in 4 Minutes series

We have a Facebook Page here as well as an Instagram page. We keep these places updated with current projects, events, and other interesting articles and deadlines.

There are also text alerts available. Fruit and vegetable farmers in 17 Eastern NY counties can now receive real time alerts on high risk disease and pest outbreaks texted directly to their cell phone. The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program, which is supported by local Cornell Cooperative Extension associations, will now offer text alerts to those that enroll in our program in 2019. 

The text alerts will be reserved for important crop alerts that could impact management decisions immediately. For instance, if there were an outbreak of Late Blight in the area, this would be transmitted to vegetable growers.

Farmers can choose the crop for which they wish to receive updates. Additionally they can request that Ag Business Alerts be sent to them. These alerts might include due dates for crop insurance deadlines, market opportunities etc.

If you have questions, please contact enychp@cornell.edu


Podcasts

FSMA Updates with Gretchen Wall

August 10, 2021
In this episode, Elisabeth Hodgdon discusses news and updates related to FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule with food safety specialist Gretchen Wall. They discuss inspection schedules for the 2021 season, On Farm Readiness Reviews, water testing, new resources available for growers, and more.

Resources:
Records Required by the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, by K. Woods, D. Stoeckel, B. Fick, G. Wall, and E.A. Bihn. This fact sheet includes an explanation of required records as well as printable record templates:
https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/sites/producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/files/shared/documents/Records-Required-by-the-FSMA-PSR.pdf

Upcoming Remote, Online, and In-Person Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training Courses:
https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/training/grower-training-courses/upcoming-grower-trainings/

Interactive Google map of water testing labs, created by the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?amp%3Busp=sharing&mid=1C8KHM6jJszj9auYQttUbVtPKtb4eEBSJ&ll=41.22288057139939%2C-78.58548244999999&z=5\

Interested in joining the Produce Safety Alliance listserv? Sign up here to receive FSMA updates, notifications of educational opportunities and new resources, and more:
https://producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu/

Contact Information:
To schedule an On Farm Readiness Review or discuss your farm’s FSMA PSR coverage status, contact Steve Schirmer (315-487–0852 or steve.schirmer@agriculture.ny.gov), or Aaron Finley (518-474-5235 or aaron.finley@agriculture.ny.gov).

Episode speakers:
Elisabeth Hodgdon, ENYCHP vegetable specialist: 518-650-5323 or eh528@cornell.edu
Gretchen Wall, Produce Safety Alliance coordinator and Northeast Regional Extension Associate: 607-882-3087 or glw53@cornell.edu

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