FROM STAFF REPORTS
Ag census under way
LANSING — Farmers and ranchers in Michigan are being asked to take part in the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the census is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches and those who operate them.
NASS was mailing forms in late December to collect data for the 2012 calendar year. Completed forms are due by Feb. 4. Producers can complete the form online via a secure website, www.agcensus.usda.gov, or return them by mail.
Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the census. Information supplied is kept confidential.
For more information, call (800) 453-7501.
EAST LANSING — A Winery Development Preconference will present basic information about starting a winery in Michigan on Feb. 13 at Michigan State University.
To assist potential entrepreneurs in understanding the elements of a successful winery business launch, the preconference held in association with the 2013 Michigan Grape and Wine Conference will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center. Topics to be covered include wine grape suitability, industry trends, business planning, marketing, licensing requirements, local zoning considerations, finance, owner experiences and resources.
Dr. Miguel Gómez of the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University is the session's featured speaker. Gómez will address basic business planning, cash flow, return on investment and related financial factors for small wineries in the Great Lakes region.
Registration is $80 per person, or $100 after Feb. 1. For more information or to register, visit www.michiganwines.com/conference.
Attendees are also invited to attend the full Michigan Grape and Wine Conference Feb. 14-15 to enhance their learning and networking opportunities.
EAST LANSING — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging established farmland protection organizations to apply for financial assistance through its Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
The USDA supports the protection of farmland through local farmland protection organizations. Farmland protection organizations purchase development rights or easements on privately owned agricultural land. Landowners selling their development rights retain ownership of the land but it cannot be diverted to non-agricultural use. Through FRPP, farmland protection organizations can receive up to 50 percent of the cost of purchasing easements from landowners.
Entities eligible for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program include state, tribal or local governments and non-government organizations that meet specific requirements. The entities must have an established farmland protection program, have the authority and capacity to hold, monitor, manage and enforce easements; and the funds to match the federal contribution.
Landowners interested in selling the development rights of their agricultural land should contact their local farmland preservation organization. The USDA does not directly purchase development rights from landowners through the FRPP.
Organizations interested in applying for FRPP financial assistance should apply at their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office. For more information, visit www.mi.nrcs.gov.